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Full text of "Travels in Arabia"

TRAVELS IN ARABIA; 



LIEUT. J. R: WELLSTED, F.R.S. 



INDIAN NAVY, 



IN TWO VOLUMES. 



Vol. I. 
OMAN and NAKAB EL HAJAR. 



n/f /- ^ ' / 

• /■ 

LONDON: 

JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE-STREET. 

MDCCCXXXVIII. 



LONDON: 

Printed by William Cloweo and Sons, 
Stamford Street. 



3/ 










■ir 



TO 



HER MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY 

THE QUEEN, 



THESE 



TRAVELS IN ARABIA 



ARE, 



WITH HER GRACIOUS PERMISSION, 



VERY HUMBLY AND RESPECTFULLY 



DEDICATED 



BY 



HER MAJESTY'S 



FAITHFUL SUBJECT AND SERVANT, 



THE AUTHOR. 

Dec. 1837. 



INTRODUCTION. 



With the exception of that portion relating to 
the peninsula of Sinai, the following volumes 
contain the Author's researches in parts of Arabia 
hitherto imperfectly or wholly unknown to Euro- 
peans. They may, therefore, derive a value from 
these considerations to which it is very certain 
they would otherwise have no claim. 

In the personal narrative he has endeavoured 
to convey to the reader the impressions produced 
on his mind at the moment of each particular 
occurrence. As to the rest, it was compiled 
from copious notes collected at various intervals. 
Many of the facts herein stated have never pre- 
viously been made known to an European public, 
and it is on this ground of novelty alone that 
the Author diffidently hopes his researches may 
prove interesting to the philosopher and the 
naturalist, as well as those more immediately 
engaged in geographical pursuits. 

The vindication of Bruces reputation, being 



VI INTRODUCTION. 

founded on self-evident facts, can scarcely be 
impugned. Such readers, however, as feel in- 
terested in the question, — and in this number 
the Author flatters himself the great majority are 
included, — will be gratified to know that one — 
by no means the least virulent of his detractors — 
did an act of tardy justice to the reputation he 
once actively laboured to destroy*. 

It remains but to acknowledge the assist- 
ance derived from others towards the comple- 
tion of this work. The Author's thanks are 
especially due to John A,rrowsmith, Esq., to 
whose knowledge, skill, and industry, so many 
travellers have already recorded their deep 
obligations, for constructing and engraving the 

* The following communication from Captain W. H. Smyth, 
R.N., V.P.R.S., to the Author, is here alluded to: — " It may 
strengthen your conviction of the substantial claims of Bruce to 
the applause of his country, when I tell you that Mr. Salt admitted 
to me that he (Salt) had drawn his conclusions too hastily, and 
from preconceived impressions. The late Dr. Gillies, the his- 
torian of Greece, who criticized Bruce so severely in the Monthly 
Review, also assured me that he afterwards altered his opinions 
entirely in favour of him. Indeed, those who have made journeys 
in the present day can readily estimate what must have been his 
courage, address, and perseverance, to have accomplished so much 
at that time ; — and when I first visited Algiers and Bengazi, he 
was not entirely forgotten. 

" It is curious that Dr. Gillies married the sister of the enter- 
prising Captain Beaver, who, in his * African Memoranda,' renders 
due tribute to the merits of Bruce, and emphatically styles him 
' the Prince of Travellers.' '' 



INTRODUCTION. Vll 

maps with which it is illustrated ; to the Rev. 
J. Reynolds, Secretary to the Oriental Com- 
mittee, for the translation of a valuable manu- 
script relative to the religion of Oman ; to Lieut. 
H. A. Ormsby, I.N., whose intimate acquaint- 
ance with Bedowin habits and customs has aided 
him considerably in his account of that inte- 
resting people; to Captain R. Moresby, the 
author of the admirable Charts of the Red Sea 
and Coast of Arabia, which have excited the 
admiration of many learned societies in Europe ; 
and to his esteemed and respected friend Ad- 
miral Sir Charles Malcolm, to whose personal 
regard, as well as to his enthusiastic zeal for the 
extension of geographical science, the Author 
was indebted for facilities which mainly contri- 
buted to the satisfactory issue of his long and 
arduous undertaking. 

In the map of Oman, the routes of Lieut. 
Whitelock are added to his own ; he accom- 
panied the Author over the greater part of the 
province : and, after he left, succeeded in passing 
from Schinas to Sharja. For the drawing of the 
Bisharyan Camel, which embellishes this volume, 
the Author is indebted to J. Bonomi, Esq., 



Vlll INTRODUCTION. 

who was kind enough to allow it to be taken 
from a model in his possession. 

For the more complete illustration of the text, 
he has availed himself of several notes by the 
Rev. G. C. Renouard, which were attached to 
papers inserted in the Journal of the Royal Geo- 
graphical Society. The mode of spelling Arabic 
proper names, adopted throughout, is also that 
advocated by the same gentleman* who has re- 
duced Oriental orthography to a fixed standard, 
as far as those papers are concerned. Each 
letter has invariably its corresponding equivalent. 
The consonants are sounded as in English ; the 
vowels as in Italian ; the accents mark long 
vowels, and an apostrophe ['] the letter 'ain. Gh 
and hh are strong gutturals ; the former often 
resembling the Northumbrian r, the latter the 
Welsh and Gaelic ch. A, e, i, o, are to be 
respectively pronounced as in far, there, ravine, 
and cold ; u as in rude, or oo in fool ; e'i as ey 
in they ; ou as ow in fowl ; at as i in thin ; ch as 
in child. 

* Vol. vi. p. 51. 



CONTENTS OF VOLUME I 



Page 

Arabia — Its aspect — Burckhardt . . .1 

Unexplored districts — Author engaged in Surveying Expe- 
dition . . . . .2 
Oman, preparations for a journey into— Official letters 
Arrival at Maskat— Audience with his Highness the Imam 

— Interesting conversation . . 4 

Proposed route — Sayyid S'aid's magnificent present . 5 

Personal appearance . . . .6 

Attachment to Europeans — Enlightened character — De- 
scent— Imamship . . . 7, 8, 9 
Description of Maskat . . . 10 — 13 
Maskat— Inhabitants . . . . 15 
Trade — Marriages . ■ . . 16 
Manufactory of arms— Personal appearance . .17 
Banians — Oriental bankrupts . . . 19 
Cows, adoration of . . 20 
Jews . . . . .21 
Population, &c. .... 22 
Coffee, pearls, &c. . ... 24 
Dates — Arrack . . . .25 
Visit to hot springs — Matarah . . 26 
View of Maskat from the harbour — Excessive heat — Glassy- 
surface of sea — Laughing gull . . . .27 
The Bagala and her crew .... 28 
Music and dancing . . . . .29 
Magnificent scene— Echo . ... 30 
Bay of Matarah . . . 31 
Town — Inhabitants . . . . .32 
Bedowin caravan— appearance of . . 33 
vol. i. b 



X CONTENTS. 

Page 

Night encampment . . . .35 

Arrive at springs . . . . . 36 

Medicinal properties . . . . .37 

Burka— Fruits, &c— Beni Wahib— heat . . 38 

Depart for Stir — Insalubrity of Maskat . . 40 

Devil's Gap — Arab manners — Kilhat . . 41 

Ancient coins — Breakfast with Sheikh of Sur . . 42 

Houses — Bazar — Market . . . 43 

Cultivation — Trade . . . . .44 

Visit to the mountains .... 45 

Kilhat— Fullah — Arab shepherds . . 46 

Anecdote of Arab girls . . . .47 

Letter from Sayyid S'aid . . 48 

Babel Rufsur— Watch-dogs . . . .50 

Feuds — Beni Abu Hasan tribe . . 51, 52 

Interview with Sheik — Attempts to discourage the author 

from proceeding . . . 53 

Beni-Abu-' Ali— Origin .... 54 

Sayyid S'aid's ineffectual efforts to subdue them — Dis- 
astrous expedition of Captain Thompson . . 55 
Massacre of the British .... 56 
Gallantry of Imam — Expedition from Bombay . . 57 
Fortitude of Women — Final defeat . . 58 
Author's reception at their encampment — Respect for 

British name — Hospitality . . 59 

Oblivion of the past . . . .60 

Anecdotes .... 61—63 

Tombs of vanquished . . . .64 

British and Bedowin soldier . . . 65 

Sooltan— Sheikh's wife . . .66 

Speech of Bedowin ladies — Admiration of the English 67 

Feast — War dance . . . .69 

Camel race— Geneba chief — Visit to his tribe . 71 

Anecdote— Appearance of my companion . . 72 

Love of song— Musical instruments— Story-telling . 74 

Leap-frog — Intense cold . . .75 

Singular substitute for a canoe . . 79 



CONTENTS. 



XI 





Page 


Climate .... 


81 


Bedowin Foray . 


83 


Departure from Beni-Abu-'AH— Anecdote 


84 


Prospect— Inroads of sand ; how arrested . 


87 


Melancholy fate of Bedowin family 


88 


Water in Oman — Water-skins 


89 


Bediah .... 


91 


Subterraneous canals 


92 


Magnificent trees — Fruit — Fertility 


94 


Medical patients — Anecdote 


96 


Encamp at Ibrah 


98 


Presents — Description of town — Market 


99 


Inquisitiveness of Bedowin ladies 


101 


Sagacity of the camel— Climate of Oman . 


105 


Gum Arabic 


106 


Laughable anecdote of camel-drivers 


107 


Lieut. Whitelock 


108 


Breakfast with Sheikh of Semmed — His fortress — 


Hospitality . . 


109 


Gravity of Bedowin youth 


110 


Bedowin robbers 


113 


Minna— Beautiful scenery 


115 


Honesty of women 


118 


Neswah .... 


119 


Trade ..... 


123 


Dress and habits of natives 


124 


Currency — Trade 


125 


Jebel Akhdar— Tanuf 


126 


Perilous descent — Seyk . 


131 


Amiable character of people 


132 


Romantic landscape 


133 


Pomegranate wine — Shirazi 


134 


A termagant .... 


135 


Wild animals 


141 


Beni Riyam .... 


142 


Use of wine 


144 


Description of the tribe— Arms — Manners 


145 



b 2 



Xll 



CONTENTS. 



Page 

Author's disappointment — Women . . 146 

Return to Neswah . . • . . 147 

Desertion of guides . . . 148 

Anecdote . . . . .150 

Bedowin Chief . . . . 153 

Love of the Desert — Cheerful temperament of the Bedowin 154 

Anecdotes — Domestic manners . . .156 

Games — Story-tellers, &c. . . . 159 

Expectation of reaching the Wahhabi capital . . 162 

Unexpected obstacles — Conduct of British agent at Maskat 164 

Munificence of Imam . . . 165 

Dangerous illness . . . .166 

Return to sea-coast . . . . 167 

Affecting incident . . . 1 72 

Fortitude of Bedowins . . . 174 

Imam's presents of fruit, &c. — Anecdote . . 177 

Grateful recollections of Say y id S' aid's kindness . 179 

Burka . . . . .183 

Population — Trade . . . . 184 

Revenue — Arab law-suits — Bazar . . .185 

Fishery . . . . . 186 

Mesnah— Sheikh . . . .187 

Distillation of arrack . . . 189 

Superb shells— A Sheikh's wife . . .190 

Sayyid Hilal — Personal appearance, &c. . . 191 

Energy and influence of Arab women . .193 

Sayyid Hilal' s household . . . 195 

Story-tellers . . . . .196 

Arab artillery — Manufactures of Suweik . . 197 

Arab horsemanship — weapons . . .198 

Departure from Suweik . . . 199 

Irruption of Wahhabis .... 200 

Desertion of guard — Romantic situation of Feletch . 203 

Ragged regiment — Dangerous ford . .204 

Mountain torrent .... 205 

Cheerful scene — Dangerous ford . . . 206 

Progress of vegetation . . . 208 



CONTENTS. 



XIII 



Arab bargains — Anecdote — Imposition defeated — Re 

flections . 
Insight into character 
Ophthalmia — Sheikh Nasser — Dissuades the author from 

proceeding . 
Makiniyat 
Arab funerals . 
Solar heat— Deresi . 
Shady groves . 
Sheikhs of Oman 
Inhospitable treatment 
The Wahhabis — Anticipated affray 
Cowardice of my Persian interpreter 
Obri .... 

Advice to travellers 
General honesty of Bedowins . 
Seyyid Hilal — His advice to the author— Soht 

mercial importance — Population — Trade 
Ahmed Ibn Aisan . 
Harbours of Oman — Schinas — Asses 
Milk-bush— Goats — Inhabitants 
Remarkable race 
Johasmi pirates 

Anecdotes .... 
Expedition of Captain Wainwright 
Magnificent scientific surveys of Persian and Arabian 

Gulfs .... 

Johasmi pirates, why so called 
Beni As— Sheikh Taniin 
A foot-race 

Hospitality — Arab story-tellers 
Natives of Pirate Coast 

Pearl fishery .... 
Divers— Climate of Persian Gulf— Diving for fish 
Author's hopes of reaching Der'ayyah frustrated 
Limits and general aspect of Oman 
Soil — Agriculture 



239, 



245- 



Page 

211 
213 

214 
215 
216 
217 
218 
219 
220 
221 
222 
224 
227 
228 

229 

230 
233 
240 
241 
243 
-247 
249 

252 
256 
257 
258 
261 
262 
263 
268 
269 
270 
275 



XIV 



CONTENTS. 



Page 

Cultivation on banks of streams . . 276 

Oases — Subterranean water-courses . . 277 

Harvest — seed-time . . . . 278 
Soil of the Jebel Akhdar — Terraced gardens — Progress 

of agriculture . . . .279 
Crops — Wells — Raising water . . . 280 
Husbandry implements . . . .281 
Singular mode of irrigation — Scriptural allusion . 282 
Reapers— Trees— Plants . . . 283 
Fruits ..... 288 
Beauty of Mangoe tree . . . .289 
Grapes — Wine — Seed of male Palm . . 290 
Wild beasts . . . .291 
Habits and instincts of the camel . . 293 
Rate of camel travelling— Captain Burnes — Author's ex- 
perience of the camel . . . 300 
Anecdotes of the camel — trappings — Scriptural allusion 301 
The Author's Arab horse— In danger of being shot . 303 
Imam's stud .... 306 
Domestic animals .... 307 
Game — birds — sportsmen . . . 308 
Fish . . . . .309 
Climate— Diseases . . . 311,312 
Arab physicians . . . .312 
Meteorology . . . . 314 
Geological features . . . .315 
Natural commercial advantages of Oman . 316 
Deficiency of internal trade . . .317 
Low state of knowledge— Arts — Manufactures . 319—322 
Peculiar religious tenets — the Khuwarijites . 322 
Power and authority of the Imam . .329 
Nasir Ibn 'Abu Mihan, " The distressed One" . 334 
Population of Oman .... 335 
Descendants of Jactan and Adnan . . 336 
Of the town and desert Arabs . . 337—340 
Modes of salutation . . . 341 
Entertainments . . . .342 



CONTENTS. XV 

Page 

Use of ardent spirits '. . . 343 

Wine — Gaming — Divination . .344 

Love of swinging, music and musical instruments 345 

Feast of" the Aid"— War dance . . 346 

Dress— Arms— Food . . . 349, 350 

Person and ornaments of women . . 351,352 

Sprightliness of character — Anecdote . . 353 

Freedom of Arab females . . . 354 

Sheikh government — Civilization . . .355 
Patriarchal authority — Attachment to their Sheikhs — 

Anecdote .... 357—361 
Notice of various tribes— Independence . 364 
Incessant feuds . . . .367 
Mutual attachment of a Bedowin tribe . . 368 
Imam's Government — Court — Titles . 371—374 
Administration of justice . . . 375 
Family feud — Religious toleration . .376 
Responsibility of Sheikhs . . . 377 
Public resources — Revenue , . . 379 
Imam's Household— Munificent character . 380 
Standing army . . . .381 
Feudalism . . . . 382 
Population— Towns— Map of Oman . . 383,384 
Houses ..... 386 
Architecture — Slave-trade . . . 387 
Imam's consent to its abolition — Reflections — Descrip- 
tion and number of slaves . . 388, 390 
Value —Treatment— Punishment — Household slaves — 

their education . . . 390,391 

Historical glance at Oman . . . 392 

Our political relations with its Prince . . 400 

Importance of an intimate alliance . . 401 

His navy — Port of Maskat . . 402 

Ungenerous behaviour of British Government . 403 

Ras ul Aseida .... 405 

Start for Nakal el Hajar— Shells . . .407 

Deyabi Bedowins— their representative government . 409 



XVI 



CONTENTS 





Page 


Shifting sands 


411 


Excessive heat .... 


412 


Caravanserai — Comparative strength and speed of cam 


els 415 


Arak trees .... 


416 


Curiosity of natives .... 


417 


Kindness of old Arab woman 


419 


Author recognised as Englishman 


422 


Ruins of Nakab el Hajar 


424 


Inscriptions .... 


.425 


Materials of the building 


426 


Vast solidity — Excellence of masonry 


427 


Interior .... 


428 


Wells — Antiquarian relics 


429 


Superstition of Arabs 


430 


General observations 


431 


Origin of Nakab el Hajar 


432 


Fertility of surrounding district 


436 


Kindruess of natives 


438 


Return to ship .... 


440 


Arab black-mail — Anecdote of Dyabi Bedowins 


441 


Best mode of penetrating into the interior 


442 


APPENDIX. 




Letters of Sayyid lbn Kalfan 


443 


Meteorological table 


446 



LIST OF PLATES. 



Vol. I. 



Valley in Oman 

Map of ditto 

Arab and Bishyrean Camels 

Map, &c, of Nakab el Hajar 



. Frontispiece. 

(opposite) Page 1 

. 296 

426 



*ws.~' 7;;"" M '" ' — 




J 



TR AVE LS 



THE PROVINCE OF OMAN 



CHAPTER I. 

Aspect of Arabia — Its unexplored Districts — The Author's pre- 
parations for his Journey — Arrives at Maskat — Interview with 
the Imam — His presents — Personal appearance and generosity 
of character — Maskat ; its ancient name and commercial im- 
portance — Position — Fortifications, Houses, tyc. 

Arabia has been aptly compared to a coat of 
frieze bordered with gold, since the only cul- 
tivated or fertile spots are found on its con- 
fines, the intermediate space being filled with 
arid and sandy wastes. 

Nearly the whole of its Syrian or northern 
frontier has been examined. Burckhardt de- 
scribes, from personal observation, the imme- 
diate vicinity of Mecca and Medina in the 
Hedjaz ; and Niebuhr, in the same manner, 
a small portion of Yemen ; but the extensive 

VOL. I. B 



2 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [cH. 

provinces of Hadramaut and Oman, together 
with the western side bordering on the Per- 
sian Gulf, were still wholly unexplored. 

During my employment for some years past 
on the survey of the southern and western 
coasts of Arabia, my attention was constantly 
directed towards attaining a knowledge of 
the provinces contiguous to them ; but no op- 
portunity for penetrating the country, which 
presented a fair chance of success, occurred 
within this period, until the commencement of 
the year 1835, when the restless and grasping 
disposition of Mohammed Ali induced him to 
despatch a force from Egypt, in order to take 
possession of the Coffee country. My pro- 
posal of accompanying his army to this point, 
and from thence to endeavour to reach Hadra- 
maut, was immediately acceded to by the In- 
dian government; but, before their sanction 
could be conveyed to me, intelligence arrived 
of the Pacha's force having been led into a 
defile in the Assair country, and there de- 
feated with great slaughter ; a miserable rem- 
nant alone reaching the sea-shore. 

Foiled, therefore, in this quarter, on my re- 
turn to Bombay I turned my attention towards 



i] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 3 

Oman, which possesses claims not inferior in 
interest to the other provinces, but deterred, 
in all probability, by the known insalubrity of 
its climate, and the supposed hostile character 
of its inhabitants, no European traveller has 
hitherto penetrated it, and its people, with 
their country, remained wholly unknown to 
us. In the prosecution of this project, I was 
induced to hope that the political relations 
between its liberal and enlightened ruler and 
our own government were of such a nature as 
to leave little doubt but that he would afford 
every facility in his power to the object of the 
mission. After obtaining the necessary per- 
mission for this purpose, I passed a few days 
in procuring the requisite letters * and pre- 
sents, and on November 9th, 1835, embarked 
on board a small schooner (the Cyrene), for 

* The following is a copy of one of these Official Documents : — 
Persian Department, No. 17, of 1835. 

These are to certify, that Lieutenant Wellsted is proceeding, 
with the sanction of the Right Honourable the Governor in Coun- 
cil of Bombay, through various parts of Arabia, and all those who 
are desirous of maintaining the friendship of the British Govern- 
ment are requested to show him every attention and civility. 

By order of the Right Honourable the Governor in Council, 

W. H. Wathen, Sec. to Government. 

Bombay Castle, 7th November, 1835. 

B 2 



4 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

Maskat*, at which port, after a pleasant pas- 
sage, we arrived on the 21st of the same 
month. 

Shortly after our little bark had anchored 
within the cove, I went on shore and waited 
on the Imam ; but finding that he had a full 
divan, I took the liberty of requesting a pri- 
vate audience on the morrow, which was im- 
mediately granted. 

November 22nd. I found no one with his 
Highness this morning but his son, and after 
delivering my presents, a few words sufficed 
to explain the objects of my proposed journey. 
Prepared as I was by my previous knowledge 
of Sayyid S'aid's characteristic liberality to 
meet with no unfavourable exception to these, 
I was surprised out of all former conception 
by the eagerness he displayed to further my 
views. " It is occasions like these/' he said, 
" which afford me real pleasure, since they 
enable me, by meeting the wishes of your 
government, to evince the strength of my at- 
tachment to them ;" and he added, in a tone 
the sincerity of which there was no mistaking, 

* Sometimes spelt " Muscat " by English writers, but more pro- 
perly as above. 



I.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 5 

" these are not words of the tongue, but of 
the heart." After a conversation of some 
length, in which I received every aid from 
his perfect knowledge of the country, it was 
arranged that as there was but one road to 
the southward, which I felt no desire to re- 
pass, that I should proceed first to Sur, land 
there, and go on to Beni-Abu-'Ali, thence cross 
in a line nearly parallel with the sea-shore, 
to the Jebel Akhdar, or Green Mountains, 
which are described as elevated, populous, 
and fruitful ; and after investigating them, 
finish the remaining portion of Oman ; and 
from thence, if the road should continue open, 
proceed to Der'ayyah*, the Wahhabi capital. 
Some other minor subjects were then dis- 
cussed and arranged, and I took my leave, 
highly gratified with the prospect of success 
before me. 

November 23rd. From his Highness this 
morning I received a fine Nejd horse for my 
journey, a brace of greyhounds, and a gold- 
mounted sword, together with an intimation, 

* Situated in the Wadi Beni Hanifah : it is one of the defiles 
by which alone the Nejd el Arid can be entered. Tchdn Numd y 
p. 523. 



6 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

that so long as I remained in Oman, the best 
the country afforded should be mine ; that all 
expenses of camels, guides, &c, would be de- 
frayed by him, and that letters were preparing, 
under his own direction, to the chiefs of the 
different districts through which I had to pass, 
requiring them to receive me with all possible 
attention. Placing on one side every con- 
sideration which might have actuated this 
prince in furthering what he supposed the 
views of my government to serve me, there 
was, on this occasion, in the style and mode 
in which he exhibited it, a spirit in full ac- 
cordance with the truly noble character which 
he bears. 

Sayyid S'aid is fifty-two years of age, and 
has reigned twenty-seven years. He pos- 
sesses a tall and commanding figure ; a mild, 
yet striking countenance ; and an address and 
manner courtly, affable, and dignified. In 
his personal habits, the Imam has preserved 
the simplicity of his Bedowin origin ; he is 
frugal almost to abstemiousness; he never 
wears jewels ; his dress, excepting in the fine- 
ness of the materials, is not superior to that of 
the principal inhabitants; and he is attended, 



I.J TRAVELS IN OMAN. 7 

on all occasions, without pomp or ostentation. 
It is noticed by the Arabs, as an instance of 
the warmth of his affections, that he daily 
visits his mother, who is still alive, and pays, 
in all matters, implicit obedience to her wishes. 
In his intercourse with Europeans, he has 
ever displayed the warmest attention and 
kindness; probably, if any native prince can 
with truth be called a friend to the English, 
it is the Imam of Maskat ; and even on our 
side, the political connexion with him ap- 
pears to have in it more sincerity than is ge- 
nerally supposed to exist. 

The government of this prince is princi- 
pally marked by the absence of all oppres- 
sive imposts, all arbitrary punishments, by 
his affording marked attention to the mer- 
chants of any nation who come to reside at 
Maskat, and by the general toleration which 
is extended to all persuasions : while, on the 
other hand, his probity, the impartiality and 
leniency of his punishments, together with 
the strict regard he pays to the general wel- 
fare of his subjects, have rendered him as 
much respected and admired by the town 
Arabs, as his liberality and personal courage 



8 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

have endeared him to the Bedowins. These 
splendid qualities have obtained for him 
throughout the East the designation of the 
Second Omar. 

Sayyid S'aid is the son of Sooltan, the third 
son of Ahmed Ibn S'aid, who, in a.d. 1730, 
rescued his country from the Persian yoke. 
Although the individuals in this line are not 
of the Yaharabi* ul Azad tribe, by whom 
the sovereignty of Oman was held for about 
two hundred and fifty years, and to whom, in 
the person of Saaef, Ahmed Ibn S'aid, of 
the Yaharabi ul Azedu, succeeded, yet the 
two dynasties are collaterally descended from 
the same common ancestor, Azad, which is 

* Jarab was the son of Sooltan, the son of Eber, and brother of 
Peleg, and from him the ancient Arabians derive their ancestry. 
The Yaharabi, therefore, who claim the nearest approach to the 
parent stem, trace their genealogy further back than the other 
tribes in Arabia, and may, undoubtedly, be pronounced the oldest 
family in the world. Saba, the grandson of Sooltan, founded 
Saba, and the Sabeans are supposed to be identified with the 
Cushites, who dwelt upon the shores of the Persian Gulf. This 
was the position the Seceders occupied at the period of the dispute 
between Ali and Mowaiyah for the caliphat, and it throws a ray of 
light upon the mist that envelopes the history of this remote pe- 
riod, when we find some direct evidence bearing on a point which 
has heretofore been a matter of mere conjecture. The name of 
Arabia, with some show of reason, has also been derived from the 
Jarib here alluded to. 



I.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 9 

also the general appellation of the tribe 
in which both branches are included. The 
present sovereign of Oman, however, is not 
styled Imam by the Arabs. In order to 
attain this title it is necessary, at the period 
of his election, that he should possess suffi- 
cient theological attainments to preach be- 
fore the assembled chiefs, by whom he is 
chosen, and their followers ; and also that he 
should not embark on board ships. The 
latter, as in the case of Saaf, who took pos- 
session of the ports on the African coast and 
their dependencies, is, after installation, over- 
looked ; but the former they consider so in- 
dispensably binding that Sayyid S'aid, who 
either does not possess the necessary attain- 
ments, or fancies so, has dispensed with the 
ceremony altogether, and, in consequence, 
receives from his subjects the title of Sayyid, 
or prince, only. 

Reserving for a future section the details 
connected with the government, which apply 
generally to the greater portion of the towns 
in Oman, I shall first give an account of 
Maskat, and then proceed at once to the 
narrative of my travels. Various notices of 



10 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

this town may be found in the pages of 
Niebuhr, Hamilton, and others, but they 
mostly refer to a remote period, and are now, 
from the great change which its condition 
and commerce have experienced under its 
present ruler, scarcely applicable to it. I 
shall, therefore, give the result of my own 
observation and inquiries at some length. 

It would appear that the ancient geogra- 
phers* were acquainted at an early period 
with the position of Maskatf. It was pro- 
bably Moscha, a port of the Hadramitae, 
mentioned by Ptolemy : noticed also by 
Arrian, in the Periplus of the Erythrean 
Sea, as the grand emporium of the trade 
between India, Persia, and Arabia. But, 
notwithstanding this testimony, Maskat does 
not appear to have been a place of very 
considerable commercial importance until 
the Portuguese took possession of the town 
in 1508, and converted it into an interme- 
diate port, where their ships might obtain 
supplies and refreshments in the passage 
between their Indian settlements and that 
on the Island of Ormuz in the Persian Gulf. 

* Geographa, lib. vii. cap. 6, p. 153. f Edrissi writes it <0w<. 



I.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 11 

With this view they fortified it with consider- 
able labour and expense. When the latter 
city, on the 26th April, 1622, was taken pos- 
session of by the Persians, under the Em- 
peror Shah Abbas, a great number of its 
wealthiest inhabitants sought shelter in 
Maskat; but, in 1658, the Arabs, having re- 
taken the city from the Portuguese, put all 
the garrison to the sword, and the only ves- 
tiges of their settlement now remaining are 
the forts and two churches, one of which has 
fallen to ruins, and the other is converted 
into a palace for the Imam. From this pe- 
riod, until Sayyid S'aid obtained the govern- 
ment, the reigning princes only visited 
Maskat occasionally, and Rostak was con- 
sidered the capital of Oman. 

The town of Maskat is situated at the ex- 
tremity of a small cove in the gorges of an 
extensive pass, which widens from this point 
as it advances into the interior. On either 
side, the cove hills, to the height of from 
three to five hundred feet, rise almost per- 
pendicularly from the sea, and appear lined 
with forts, which, considering they belong to 
the vicinity of an Arab town, are in, a toler- 



12 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH, 

able state of repair. The largest, and most 
commanding, are erected, on either side, at 
the inner extremity of the cove ; and within 
that on the western side state prisoners are 
confined. Two half-moon batteries also com- 
mand the entrance: the guns appear well 
mounted, and the guard at all seasons on the 
alert. The distance across, from fort to fort, 
is only half a mile, so that an open attack in 
the day-time would be very difficult, if these 
were well served. 

To persons arriving from seaward, Maskat 
with its fort and contiguous hills, have an 
extraordinary and romantic appearance. Not 
a tree, shrub, or other trace of vegetation is 
visible, and the whitened surface of the houses, 
and turreted forts in the vicinity, contrast in 
a singular manner with the burnt and cindery 
aspect of the darkened masses of rock around. 
Similar in its aspect to most eastern cities 
when viewed from a distance, we first discern 
the level roofs of the dwellings, the domes of 
the mosques, their lofty minarets, and other 
prominent features, and the view retains these 
attractive features until we land, when the 
illusion quickly disappears. Narrow crowded 



I.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 13 

streets and filthy bazaars, nearly blocked up 
by porters bearing burthens of dates, grain, 
&c., wretched huts intermingled with low and 
paltry houses, the owners of which, seated on 
a small projecting part before their door, are 
merely sheltered from the heat of the sun by 
tattered canvas awnings ; and other dwellings 
more than half fallen to decay, but which yet 
continue tenanted, meet the eye in every di- 
rection. There are, nevertheless, within the 
town several substantial, handsome houses ; 
the palace of the Imam, and those belonging 
to the old princess, his mother, the governors, 
and several others, being of the latter descrip- 
tion. The form of these edifices differs con- 
siderably from what is usually seen in the 
towns of Yemen and the Hedjaz, and par- 
takes more of the Persian style of architec- 
ture. 

Maskat is built on a slope, rising with a 
gradual ascent from the sea, where the water 
nearly washes the bases of the houses. This 
side has no defence, but the others are pro- 
tected by a wall fourteen feet high, with a 
dry ditch. The entrance is by two gates, 
which they close every night at sunset. 



14 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 



CHAPTER II. 

Abundance of Provisions — Natives — Beluches —Persians — Ma- 
nufactory of Arms— Intermarriages — Insalubrity of Maskat — 
Banians — Oriental Bankrupts — Banian Cows— Jews — Popula- 
tion — Customs — Exports and Imports— Pilgrims — Coffee trade 
— Dates — Distillation of Arrack. 

Notwithstanding its unpromising appear- 
ance, there are few parts where supplies may 
be obtained in greater profusion, or of better 
quality. Beef, mutton, poultry, fruit through- 
out the year, fish, &c, are all good in their 
several kinds. Maskat is supplied with water 
by means of a deep well, contiguous to which 
there is a fort, where a guard in time of war 
is constantly stationed, in order to prevent 
others from cutting off the supply. A newly 
constructed aqueduct conveys the water to 
the town. It is hard, and of an indifferent 
quality. The cove abounds with fish. 

The greater portion of the inhabitants of 
Maskat are of a mixed race, the descendants 



II.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 15 

of Arabs, Persians, Indians, Syrians, by the 
way of Baghdad and Basarah, Kurds, Af- 
ghans, Beluches, &c., who, attracted by the 
mildness of the government, have settled here, 
either for the purposes of commerce, or to 
avoid the despotism of the surrounding go- 
vernments. This we discover has been the case 
from a very early period; two centuries be- 
fore the birth of Mohammed, a powerful tribe, 
then residing on the shores of the Persian 
Gulf, sought refuge here against the oppres- 
sion of the Persians, and, as late as 1828, a 
party of Jews, unable any longer to endure 
the exactions and tyranny of Daud Pacha, 
were received by the Imam with much kind- 
ness. 

Few Afghans make Maskat their perma- 
nent residence, those seen in the town being 
mostly pilgrims to or from Mecca. Hence 
they seldom enter into many commercial spe- 
culations, and are further remarkable for 
keeping aloof from the other classes. The 
Beluches, on the contrary, mix with all, and 
though a thrifty race, are in general very 
poor. A considerable number of the Imam's 
household troops are recruited from this class; 



10 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

others hire themselves as porters, an occupa- 
tion for which their athletic forms well befit 
them, while some few engage as mariners on 
board bagalas * or ships, where they are 
much esteemed for their cheerfulness and ac- 
tivity. In consequence of the difference in 
their faith, the Oman Arabs and Persians 
seldom intermarry, but with the Beluches 
the Arabs are less fastidious, since they not 
unfrequently obtain Arab wives, and reside 
here permanently, which they also frequently 
do, in the event of any of their slaves becom- 
ing mothers. It is only very recently that 
the former treachery of the Persians has been 
overlooked by the Arabs. During Imam 
Saaf's reign, a garrison of the latter were ad- 
mitted into the town ; but taking advantage of 
that prince's habitual vice of drunkenness, they 
on one occasion seized upon the forts, deposed 
him, and usurped the government. After 
they in their turn were dispossessed, they were 
not allowed in any considerable number to re- 
side within the town ; but since the marriage 

* A rude description of vessel of various burthens, from fifty to 
three hundred tons. The term is, most probably, from bagala or 
bagla, a kind of heron. (Ardea Torra.) 



II. J TRAVELS IN OMAN. 17 

of the Imam with the Princess of Shiraz, 
that order, with several other restrictions, has 
been rescinded. Indeed, an offence com- 
mitted by a Persian, whether it be of a civil 
or criminal nature, is permitted to go before 
their own Cazi, and, according to his report, 
they are punished or acquitted. The Per- 
sians at Maskat are mostly merchants, who 
deal in India piece-goods, coffee, hookahs or 
raleans, and rose-water. Others, from Bun- 
der, Abbas, Lar, and Menon, manufacture 
swords and matchlocks, for which there is a 
great demand in the interior. 

From their mixed descent, and also from 
the custom of intermarrying with their 
Zansibar and Abyssinian slaves, the com- 
plexion of this portion of the inhabitants 
varies very considerably ; but the higher 
orders, who have preserved untainted the 
purity of their Arabian descent, retain, in 
a remarkable degree, the peculiar character- 
istics of their race. In their persons they 
are mostly spare, and their skins are of a 
light, healthy brown colour. They rarely 
suffer from fevers, although the climate of 
Maskat is, in this respect especially, fatal to 

vol. i. c 



IB TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

strangers, no European having been able to 
live there hitherto, and many fatal cases oc- 
cur in such of our ships as are compelled to 
remain but for a few days. The lower 
classes are stout, with remarkably muscular 
limbs, and some of them afford the most per- 
fect models of strength and symmetry. So 
little variation is to be found in the habits, 
disposition, and moral character of the Arabs 
who occupy the maritime towns, that I have 
preferred treating of them generally in a se- 
parate section. It remains to notice two 
other classes of foreigners in Maskat. 

There are more Banians here than in any 
other city of Arabia. At the period of my 
visit it was calculated that they amounted to 
one thousand five hundred, and, under the 
mild administration of Sayyid S'aid, they 
were supposed to be rapidly increasing. 
They possess a small temple, are permitted 
to keep and protect a certain number of 
cows, to burn the dead, and to follow, in all 
other respects, the uninterrupted enjoyment 
of their respective religious tenets, without 
any of that arbitrary distinction of dress 
which they are compelled to adopt in the 



II.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 1!) 

cities of Yemen. Here they appear to pos- 
sess all the privileges of Mussulman subjects, 
with one single exception. The relation of a 
Banian slain by a Mussulman can be com- 
pelled to accept a compensation for blood, 
while with the Arab it is a matter of choice. 

They mostly embark at Porebunder from 
the north-west provinces of India, and, in the 
prosecution of their commercial avocations, 
frequently remain for a period of fifteen or 
twenty years. They never bring their wo- 
men with them, and, though it is well known 
that they occasionally intrigue with Arab 
females, there are few exceptions to their 
remaining unmarried for the whole of this 
period. It is, however, a singular fact in 
connexion with the history of this class, that, 
when occasional, though rare instances occur 
of their falling away from their own faith, 
and adopting that of the Mussulmans, the 
latter do not appear to pride themselves on 
their proselytes. A practice they have of 
proclaiming themselves bankrupt, is a sub- 
ject of considerable diversion to the Arabs. 
An individual thus situated seats himself in 
the open day in his shop with a candle 

c 2 



20 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

burning before him. Those of his own class 
to whom he is indebted no sooner perceive 
this, than they come in and revile him in no 
measured terms, and sometimes even beat 
him. But, after this ebullition, he is not 
molested until he has again commenced 
business, and is in a fair way to retrieve 
himself, when they again commence their 
importunities, so that his failure in no wise 
releases him from his former obligations. 

Accompanied by an Arab merchant and 
some Bedowins, I once went to look at the 
cows belonging to this sect. There were 
about two hundred in a large space, enclosed 
by a wall. The animals were well fed, sleek, 
and mischievous. Myself and the merchant, 
being unarmed, were permitted to enter, but 
this was denied to the Bedowins, because 
they wore their jambeers, and it was thought 
would not fail to use them in case the ani- 
mals became at all mischievous. My com- 
panions immediately perched themselves, 
with several others who had collected, on the 
wall, and seemed to derive excessive amuse- 
ment from observing the form of adoration 
which the Banians were paying to their 



II.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 21 

cattle. When the animals fall sick, the 
Banian pays them the utmost attention, and, 
should they exhibit no symptoms of recovery, 
they are, as in the towns on many other parts 
of the coast, sent off to India. The habits of 
this class are, however, too well known to 
need any further mention here. 

In Maskat the Banians constitute a body 
of the principal merchants, who almost ex- 
clusively monopolise the pearl trade from the 
Persian Gulf, amounting, it is calculated, to 
fifteen lacs of dollars annually. They enter as 
largely into the supply of grain from India, 
and have also most extensive dealings in 
Indian cloths and piece-goods. 

There are a few Jews in Maskat, who 
mostly arrived there in 1828, being driven 
from Baghdad, as we have before stated, by 
the cruelties and extortions of the Pacha 
Daud. Nearly the whole of this race were 
compelled to fly. Some took refuge in 
Persia, while others, in their passage towards 
India, remained here. The same toleration 
exercised towards all other persuasions is ex- 
tended to the Beni Israel, no badge or mark, 
as in Egypt or Syria, being insisted on : they 



22 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

are not, as in the town of Yemen, compelled 
to occupy a distant and separate part of the 
town, nor is the observance, so strictly ad- 
hered to in Persia, of compelling them to 
pass to the left of Mussulmans when meeting 
in the streets, here insisted on. Their avo- 
cations in Maskat are various, many being 
employed in the fabrication of silver orna- 
ments, others in shroffing money, and some 
few retail intoxicating liquors. 

I should fix the population of Maskat and 
Muttrah at sixty thousand souls. 

This town is entitled to a high rank among 
Oriental cities, not only as the emporium of 
a very considerable trade between Arabia, 
India, and Persia, but also, in reference to 
its extensive imports, of some note as the 
seaport of Oman. 

The customs, fixed at five per cent, on all 
imported goods, are farmed at Maskat for 
one hundred and five thousand, and at 
Muttrah for sixty thousand dollars, which 
give, collectively, an annual importation of 
three millions three hundred thousand dol- 
lars, or about nine hundred thousand pounds 
sterling. No duties of any kind are levied 



II.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. *2o 

on exports. Although this does not sound 
very imposing when contrasted with the 
ports of India or Europe, it is very consider- 
able for Arabia, the imports being chiefly 
cloth and corn ; and, indeed, the amount ex- 
ceeds that of any other town in the country, 
Jiddah excepted. 

The principal articles which are brought 
to, and afterwards exported from Maskat, 
and on which no duty is levied, are coffee 
and pearls. In the conveyance of the former 
eight or ten large, and double that number of 
smaller vessels, trade between Yemen and 
Maskat: they make but one voyage during 
the year. Some of these vessels are of two 
hundred and fifty tons, and upwards. 

Freighted with dates, Persian tobacco, car- 
pets, and generally filled with Persian pil- 
grims, they proceed along the Arabian coast, 
and up the Red Sea, to Jiddah, where they 
land their pilgrims ; and such of the crew who 
are desirous of doing so, proceed with them 
to the Hadj at Mecca. There they probably 
remain one or two months, according as the 
period may serve for the return of the pil- 
grims ; but, after leaving that port, they 



24 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH 

make the best of their way to either Mocha 
or Hedeidha, when they exchange the bullion 
received as passage money from the pilgrims 
for coffee, and manage to quit the Red Sea 
at the beginning or middle of the month of 
May, so as to avoid the first burst of the 
south-west monsoon. The coffee brought 
hither is then disposed of, and that which 
is not required for the consumption of the 
people in the town, or for sale to the 
Bedowins of the neighbouring provinces, is 
shipped off in smaller boats to Bahrain, 
Basarah, and the southern parts of the Per- 
sian Gulf. Formerly the trade to Basarah 
was very extensive, Syria being almost ex- 
clusively supplied through this channel, but 
the importation of West Indian coffee into 
the Levant has now almost exclusively sup- 
planted that from Mocha. 

At Maskat the coffee trade is in the hands 
of the Banians, and is said to be very lucra- 
tive. The pearl fisheries in the Persian Gulf 
are estimated at forty lacs annually, and 
nearly two-thirds of that produce are brought 
hither in small boats, and from thence 
conveyed to Bombay in ships or bagalas. 



II.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 25 

They mostly arrive sealed at Maskat, and 
very few are disposed of there. In Bombay 
the Parsees are the principal purchasers, and 
a great many are sent by them to China. 

Maskat yields but few exports, and no 
duty is now levied on them. The principal 
are dates, taken to India, where large quan- 
tities are required to make the government 
arrack, or are sold at the different ports on 
the southern coast of Arabia ; ruinos, or red 
dye, much valued in India ; sharks' fins, 
shipped off' to China, where they are used 
for making soup, and a variety of other pur- 
poses ; and salt fish, much esteemed by the 
lower classes of natives in India. The re- 
turns for these articles are made principally 
in bullion and coffee. A number of mules 
from Persia, and asses from the Island of 
Bahrain, are annually sent to the Isle of 
France. 



26 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [cH. 



CHAPTER III. 

Excursion to the Hot Springs of Imam AH— Cove of Maskat — 
Heat — Glassy surface of the Sea — The Laughing Gull — Visit 
on board a Bagald — Singular appearance of her Crew — 
Songs — Music — Dancing — Remarkable Echo — Scenery — 
Matarah — Population — Arab Women — Bedowins — A Village 
— Watch Dogs — Caravanserai — Description of the Springs — 
Irrigation — Height of the Thermometer — Fine Climate— Re- 
turn to Maskat. 

November 23rd. Having obtained from his 
Highness this morning an officer to accom- 
pany me, I set out on a visit to the hot 
springs of Imam Ali, which are situated on 
the sea-shore, about seven hours to the west- 
ward of the town. Although the cool season 
was so far advanced the day proved exces- 
sively sultry, and when we pushed off in our 
boat for Matarah, notwithstanding a fresh 
breeze was prevailing outside, yet within the 
cove it was a perfect calm, and the heat 
thrown off from the sides of the mountains, 



III.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 27 

along the base of which we were gliding, felt 
almost overpowering. At this time the sea 
presented a surface so smooth and glassy, 
that it reflected the dark hills, the whitened 
forts, the houses, and the shipping, with as 
much distinctness as from a mirror; and it 
required the slight motion communicated to 
their shadows by the long, undulating swell, 
which rolled slowly and lazily into the cove, 
to enable the beholder to determine the pic- 
tured objects from those which were real. 
Under the fierce glare of the noontide heat, 
the town, with its usually busy inhabitants, 
w T as silent, and at rest. Occasionally a long, 
slight canoe might be perceived, dotting the 
surface, as it rose on the summit of one of the 
rolling waves, with a single fisherman seated 
near its stern pursuing his solitary occupa- 
tion, while, hovering around him, and stoop- 
ing occasionally to share in his " scaly spoil," 
the laughing sea-gull utters that wild, shrill, 
and piercing cry, distinguishable even at a 
distance, and which has given rise to its ap- 
propriate, but singular appellation. 

On sweeping round an angle of the rock, 
we perceived a large bagala lying becalmed, 



28 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

and I will here introduce the scene which 
presented itself when I stepped on board, 
under an impression I should receive some 
letters. Let the reader picture to himself a 
huge misshapen vessel, of at least four hun- 
dred tons, with a long projecting prow, and 
an elevated and elaborately carved and orna- 
mented stern, having but a single mast and 
single sail, the latter spread on a yard one 
hundred and fifty feet in length, and contain- 
ing more canvass than the courses of the 
largest first-rates in his Majesty's navy. The 
decks appear crowded with beings of every 
hue, and from every clime. The Persian, 
distinguished by his flowing and richly-co- 
loured dress; the Arab, with his coarse 
cloak of broad alternate stripes ; the Beluche, 
with his long hair and white garments ; and 
the Armenian, who affects a costume bearing 
some resemblance to the unsightly garb of 
the Franks, are mixed up with, and jostled 
by African negroes, who have but a piece of 
tattered cloth thrown around their waist. 
The latter compose the greater part of the 
crew, which may amount in number to one 
hundred and fifty men. For their encou- 



HI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. *2f) 

ragement and recreation, whenever work is 
going on, about ten of their number are se- 
lected to sing to the remainder. A boy, with 
a sharp tenor voice, usually leads the concert, 
and to him his comrades reply in a deep, 
bass cadence, accompanying their voices 
with several rude instruments of music, and 
joining in a wild and picturesque sort of 
dance. These instruments are rude ; one re- 
sembles the tom-tom of Hindustan ; another, 
still more simple, the tambourine of Europe ; 
but, when unprovided with these, I have ob- 
served them beating time upon one of their 
copper cooking dishes. To the European, 
scarcely any combination of sounds can ap- 
pear farther removed from music, or, indeed, 
more thorougly discordant, yet on these 
Africans their effects appear indescribably 
exciting. The expression of the face, the 
contortions of the limbs and body, the yells 
with which their dancing gestures are ac- 
companied, and the length of time they will 
continue the exercise, in fact until they sink 
down in a state of exhaustion, denote an in- 
tense sympathy with sounds to which we are 
equally strangers. 



30 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

A light breeze sprang up, and, as they 
passed the forts on either side the entrance, 
two guns were fired, and the effects, con- 
trasted with the former silence, were ex- 
tremely magnificent. The reverberations, 
confined at first to the inner or nearer circle 
of hills, exceeded, rather than fell short of, 
the loudness of the original discharge; and 
might, as they broke in quick succession on 
the ear, be compared to the simultaneous 
and rapid firing of several heavy batteries 
of artillery. Nor was this diminished 
when they mingled with the secondary 
echoes, returned from more distant moun- 
tains, until, at length, the sounds became 
gradually more faint, and terminated in the 
former absolute silence. The rising breeze 
had wafted the smoke above the hills, and 
a strong beam of light was thrown on the 
shipping in the harbour, so that their masts, 
rigging, and even the lazy pendant, became, 
as it were, pencilled out upon the dark hills 
w T hich formed the cove; but, owing to the 
peculiar nature of the scenery, the insignifi- 
cance of works of art contrasted with those 
of nature, never appeared to me so striking 



III.] TRAVELS [N OMAN. 3 1 

as at this spot. The huge hulk of a seventy- 
four, and several scarcely less heavy frigates, 
with their spreading yards and lofty spars, 
are perfectly lost beneath the first range of 
what would otherwise appear low and insig- 
nificant hillocks. 

After rounding the cape which forms the 
north-western extremity of the cove, we enter 
the neighbouring bay of Matarah, and pass a 
pretty town, situated on one of those low 
nooks which form a distinguishing feature in 
the scenery of this part of the world. Be- 
tween the houses and the margin of the sea, 
so as to form a neat-looking promenade and 
landing-place, there is a broad belt of light- 
coloured sand, which extends to the bold, 
gloomy cliffs overhanging either extremity of 
the town. The cove faces the prevailing 
breezes, and, in consequence of its exposed 
situation, is, at present, rarely frequented by 
vessels of any description ; not a fishing-boat, 
nor even a canoe, was visible, and their ab- 
sence added to the solitary, yet not unpleas- 
ing effect of the whole. 

Nearly in a direction with Matarah, a 
rugged islet rose before us. Its sides were 



32 TRAVELS IN OMAN. £cil. 

splintered and shattered into curiously-shaped 
peaks, and on the very summit of these, 
where to the eye it appears difficult to con- 
ceive that the foot of man could have found 
a resting - place, watch - towers have been 
erected. From one of the most elevated, a 
picturesque group of Arab soldiery, whose 
matchlocks and long lances glittered in the 
sunbeams, were gazing on us as we passed 
beneath them. 

Matarah is a considerable town, or rather 
a very large collection of huts, situated at 
the extremity of a cove, much frequented by 
the Imam's vessels, but seldom by those of 
others. Notwithstanding it is but a mile 
from the town, the road, leading over a range 
of hills is so rugged, that the communication 
between the two towns is maintained princi- 
pally by boats. Its inhabitants are computed 
at twenty thousand, and their principal em- 
ployment is weaving cloth, or fabricating the 
woollen cloaks so generally worn in Arabia. 
Scarcely a hut but contained its spinning- 
wheel, with a female busily employed before 
it. All had their faces uncovered : their fea- 
tures were regular, and, in many cases, hand- 



III.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 33 

some, but the effect is, in a measure, de- 
stroyed by the absurd practice of dying the 
skin with henna. Their freedom of demean- 
our, when contrasted with that usually ob- 
served in Arab towns, gives no very flattering 
picture of their morals. 

Camels had been provided for us, and, 
after a ride of two hours over a country 
wholly uninteresting, we arrived at the vil- 
lage of Rooah, which has some gardens and 
wells of water. 

We passed several caravans of Bedowins, 
journeying to, or returning from Maskat. 
Their complexion is much fairer than that 
of any other Arabs that I have yet seen, and 
their stature, though short, is well propor- 
tioned. Their hair, which is permitted to 
flow in plaited folds as low as the waist, 
gives them a very striking and martial ap- 
pearance when seated with their sword and 
shield, cross-legged, on their war camels. 
They have dark, lively, expressive eyes ; a 
well-formed nose and mouth ; and their 
pearly white teeth offer a fine contrast to 
those of the town Arabs. They seem a 
laughing, good-humoured race, and chatted 

VOL. i. d 



34 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

freely, as I rode at their side, of their country 
and its inhabitants. Now, and for some time 
afterwards, I found it difficult, without the 
aid of an interpreter, to maintain a conversa- 
tion with the Omany Bedowins. The dialect 
which had served me in my communication 
with the tribes along the shores of the Red 
Sea was understood but very partially here. 
I am convinced, however, this could only 
occur to a person who had but a superficial 
knowledge of the language : one completely 
versed in it would find little difficulty in 
making himself understood in any part of the 
country. 

After sunset we continued, occasionally, 
to pass groups of Bedowins, who had with- 
drawn some short distance from the road, 
and were seated with their camels round a 
fire. It seems customary on these occasions 
for neither party to proffer a salutation, 
which is contrary to the practice when they 
meet in the day, for then they exchange 
several sentences. About an hour before 
midnight, the loud and deep barking of some 
shepherd dogs denoted our approach to a vil- 
lage, which we entered a few minutes after- 



II I. J TRAVELS IN OMAN. 35 

wards, and, after winding our way through 
several lanes, with large trees on either side, 
overhanging the path, we entered an exten- 
sive building erected for the use of travellers. 
The night air being cold, my guides soon 
prepared a fire, and a meal of rice and fish, 
of which we all partook most heartily. In 
the course of my several journeys I have 
been never solicitous or particular about my 
place of repose, and I was much amused this 
night at the remarks of the Bedowins, when, 
instead of drawing near to the fire, as they 
were all anxiously doing, they saw me wrap 
myself up in a boat cloak, and lie down on a 
chinammed platform raised in the open air in 
the garden. 

Early this morning, I visited the spring 
which was the object of my journey. The 
water gushes with much violence from an 
aperture at the base of a hill of clay iron- 
stone. Veins of a crystallized quartz run in 
a diagonal direction through the rock, and 
large fragments have been dislodged from it. 
Some faint indications of copper might be 
distinguished between the inner layers, but 
no traces of volcanic action were anvwhere 

d 2 



36 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

to be discovered. Close adjoining to the spot 
from whence the water issues a small square 
reservoir has been constructed for the con- 
venience of those who come to bathe there. 
Immersed in this, a thermometer, Fahrenheit, 
indicated one hundred and ten degrees, which 
was two degrees less than at the rock. After 
repeated trials I found it difficult to decide 
that it had any peculiarity of taste or smell. 
At one time I was induced to consider it 
slightly chalybeate, and at another to be in 
no higher degree saline ; but, in neither in- 
stance, could I have given an opinion de- 
cidedly, and it may, therefore, be considered 
that, in both these respects, it differs but 
little from the water obtained in other parts 
of the country. Here the natives, after 
placing it to cool in porous pans, pronounce 
it excellent, drinking no other. It was evi- 
dent that neither its heat, nor any other 
quality which it may possess, prevents its 
nourishing the surrounding vegetation. As a 
cure for cutaneous and other local disorders, 
these waters enjoy a great reputation amongst 
the Bedowins and town Arabs, the former fre- 
quently undertaking long and painful jour- 



III.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 37 

neys from a great distance in the interior, 
that they may remain and use them for seve- 
ral days. Although the temperature was so 
high, yet I witnessed the submersion of seve- 
ral of the patients, who were kept under the 
surface by force for some time. One, an old 
man of eighty, was so much exhausted by 
this rough treatment, that he appeared in a 
dying state : yet I was told that, if he lived, 
the operation would be repeated after an in- 
terval of two hours, for the natives believe if 
the waters fail in producing their desired 
effect, it is only because they have not been 
used sufficiently often. A few yards from 
the bath there is a small mosque, in which 
an old priest resides, who is ever ready to 
assist with his prayers those who may require 
them. 

After leaving the reservoir, the water runs 
into a large shallow tank or basin, in which 
it cools ere it is permitted to reach the vege- 
tation or trees, and numerous rills conduct it 
over the face of the country. The portion 
thus irrigated forms the seaward front or base 
of hills which extend, by a succession of yet 
higher ranges, into the interior of the coun- 



38 TRAVELS IN OJMAN. [CH. 

try. The sun had just risen, and the cool 
temperature of the morning air felt delight- 
fully refreshing. The smooth surface of the 
sea, at a distance of four or five miles, was 
receiving a rosy tint, which the Island of 
Burka, now before us, also shared, and so 
clear was the atmosphere that I was almost 
tempted to believe I saw the Persian shore. 

Nearly all the fruits and vegetables culti- 
vated in other parts of Oman seem to be 
found here, and in size and luxuriance of 
growth the trees equal those of India. 

A small tribe, the Beni Wahab, has held 
possession of these grounds for many ages ; 
but in the hot weather, during the late har- 
vest, the town Arabs arrive in great numbers. 
I was told as many as seven or eight thou- 
sand at that season of plenty and happiness 
take up their quarters here, and sit all day 
under the trees, reciting verses from the 
Koran, or slumbering in repose beneath their 
shadowy branches, which at once afford them 
food and shelter. 

At noon to-day our thermometer rose to 
ninety-four degrees in the shade, and some 
idea of the heat in the warm season may, 



III.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 39 

from this fact, be estimated : yet shortly 
after the sun sinks behind the mountains, 
this parching heat was exchanged for a 
piercing cold. To the natives, this extraor- 
dinary fluctuation is not attended with any 
ill effects, and they pronounce it at all sea- 
sons to be the most healthy spot in Oman ; 
but it has proved fatal to one or more of al- 
most every party of Europeans which has 
ever ventured to visit them. 



40 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH 



CHAPTER IV. 

Departure for Sur — Devil's Gap — Timidity of Arab Mariners 
— Kilhdt — Ancient Gold Coins — Breakfast with a Sheikh — 
Account of Sur — Hospitable treatment — Market — Dale 
Groves — Exports and Imports —Arab Shepherds — Anecdote of 
Arab Girls— Departure — Babel Rufsur— Watch Dogs — Feuds 
— The Beni- Abu -Hasan Tribe — Their numbers — Interview 
with the Sheikh-— Attempts to deter the Author from proceed- 
ing. 

November 25th. A boat having been prepared 
for me, I left Maskat, with no small satisfac- 
tion, for Sur; for its climate, at all times 
unfavourable to the European constitution, 
was particularly insalubrious at this period, 
and the number of deaths which occurred 
daily, even among the natives, was very con- 
siderable. A poor Frenchman who had fled 
here, after escaping a hundred dangers sub- 
sequent to the defeat of the Turks in the 
Assair country, was dying in a vessel along- 
side of that which I had quitted, and a con- 



IV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 41 

siderable number of the crew of an English 
ship lying there were seriously ill. 

Off the Devil's Gap, a remarkable gorge 
or opening in the mountain range contiguous 
to the sea-shore, we experienced a heavy 
squall, during which I had a good oppor- 
tunity of witnessing the timidity and irreso- 
lution of Arab mariners. We shipped a good 
deal of water, and were really at one time in 
an awkward situation. The passage con- 
tinued stormy, with occasional heavy showers 
of. rain, to Kilhat, abreast of which we an- 
chored for a few hours, while I went on shore 
to examine the ruins. 

Kilhat is an ancient town, mentioned by 
several of the Arabian authors. Its ruins 
cover an extensive tract, but only one build- 
ing remains in a state of tolerable preserva- 
tion. This is a small mosque, which, judg- 
ing from the writing on various parts of it, 
has been frequented by Indian Mussulmans. 
Its interior is covered with party-coloured 
glazed tiles, on which are inscribed, in re- 
lievo, sentences from the Koran. To the 
northward of these ruins there is a small 
fishing village, the inhabitants of which also 



42 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

occasionally employ themselves in digging 
amidst the ruins for gold coins, the metal of 
which in Maskat is considered to be of the 
purest kind. Some of these bear the name 
of the Caliph Haroun el Rashid. 

Quitting Kilhat with a pleasant breeze, we 
reached Sur shortly after sunset, and an- 
chored in the inner harbour, within a few 
yards of the shore. From Maskat to this 
port the mountain ranges approach close to 
the sea, and are very elevated : they bear the 
name of Jebel Syenne and Rackee, and 
are intersected by several valleys, some of 
which are filled with streams of fresh water. 
Near to these are a few groves of the date 
palm, and, though the plain is cultivated, the 
hills are destitute of trees and verdure. 

November 28tk. I found the Sheikh this 
morning waiting on the beach to receive me, 
and, after breakfasting with him on dates 
and milk, we walked over the town. 

Sur, the port of the district of Jai'lan, is 
situated on a low sandy shore, utterly desti- 
tute of vegetation or trees. It is merely a 
large collection of huts erected on either side 
a deep lagoon, which are separately occupied 



IV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 43 

by different tribes. They are very com-' 
pactly constructed with the branches of the 
date palm, are airy and spacious, and, as the 
streets are kept very clean, the whole wears 
a neat and pleasing appearance. There are 
no shops here, the bazar being situated about 
a mile and a half from the beach, where a 
considerable number of the inhabitants re- 
side. Thither, accompanied by its Sheikh, 
who had been sent for directly intelligence 
was received of my arrival, I set out, and 
was much gratified at rinding when I reached 
the village that my tent was pitched in a 
delightful spot, and that guards had been 
placed, and every precaution taken for the 
safety of my baggage. Here I was to remain 
until camels and guides could be collected for 
my journey. 

A daily market is held on this spot, at 
which grain, fruit, and vegetables are ex- 
posed for sale. The houses, though small, are 
strongly built of stone and cement, and the 
largest and best are occupied by the Banians 
and people from Cutch, who monopolise a 
considerable share of the trade. On the west 
quarter there is a large fort, mounting a few 



44 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

old guns, but both it and they are in a very 
ruinous state. 

The contiguous country is cultivated in 
patches of considerable extent, and the date 
groves are numerous and extensive. It is, 
however, to commercial pursuits that the 
people of Sur are principally devoted, pos- 
sessing a good harbour. Belonging to the port 
they have about three hundred bagalas of 
different sizes, which trade, during the fair 
season, to and between the shores of India, 
Africa, and the Arabian and Persian Gulfs. 
Its own exports and imports are trifling, the 
former being dates and salt fish, the latter 
grain, cloth, &c. ; but the profit derived from 
the interchange of the various productions of 
the quarters I have named, is sufficient to 
support them in affluence during the adverse 
period of the year. They acknowledge the 
authority, but pay no tribute to Sayyid S'aid. 
Sur is thought to be of great antiquity — it 
is supposed to have been occupied by the 
Syrians. 

December 1st. Early this morning I set 
out, accompanied by a guide, to visit the 
northern range of mountains. The road be- 



IV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN, 45 

ing impracticable for horses, we procured 
asses, which carried us at a brisk pace in 
two hours and a half to the foot of the hills. 
Here we dismounted, and commenced our 
ascent on foot, by a rugged defile. After an 
hour's fagging, climbing in many places ra- 
ther than walking, we breathed for a short 
space near to a small hamlet, and, after 
quenching our thirst at a stream of pure 
water, which rushes through the valley to 
the plains below, again set forward. Four 
hours more, during which we crossed several 
deep ravines, also well watered, and inter- 
spersed with date trees and patches of culti- 
vation, brought us to the summit ; but, be- 
yond the view we obtained of the surround- 
ing country, and the delightful coolness of 
the atmosphere, there was little to repay 
us for our trouble. Bare tabular patches 
of limestone rock showed their bleak and 
wasted surface in all directions. A few 
sheep and numerous goats were browsing on 
the scanty herbage the other parts afforded, 
but, hitherto, we saw no human being to 
break the solitude of the scene. 

From this point, which forms the cape, or 



40 TRAVELS IN OMAN. | CH. 

south-east extremity of the seaward range, to 
an extensive valley abreast of Kilhat, the 
mountainous tract is called Futlah. In the 
narrow ravines by which it is intersected 
there are said to be sixty villages, or rather 
hamlets, containing about one thousand five 
hundred inhabitants, who bear the general 
appellation of the Beni Kaled and Beni 
Daud. About six hundred of the former 
occupy a valley bearing the same name on 
the south-west side of the mountains, so very 
narrow and steep that one part in the line of 
its bed can only be crossed by means of 
ropes. Independent of the numerous streams 
and rills by which the several valleys are 
watered, rain is more frequently experienced 
here than on the plains, and a considerable 
quantity of grain and fruit is reared. One 
tenth of the produce of the soil goes to the 
Sheikh of Sur. 

Proceeding for a short distance along this 
ridge we fell in with some shepherds, who 
testified at first no little surprise at our ap- 
pearance, but a few words from my guide re- 
assured them, and we accepted with much 
thankfulness an invitation to their mid-day 



IV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 47 

meal of dates and milk. A huge rock, stand- 
ing upright on the plain, sheltered them from 
the wind, which blew with much strength 
and keenness. In this group, beyond a 
somewhat fairer complexion and taller sta- 
ture, I saw little to distinguish them from 
their neighbours of the plains. When we 
had finished our repast, our new acquaint- 
ances insisted on my visiting their huts. I 
found them situated in a small dell, near a 
stream of running water. They were of a 
circular form, the walls of loose stones, and 
the roofs neatly thatched with a description 
of reed which grows here in great abundance, 
but the interior exhibited neither space nor 
comfort. I had scarcely seated myself on a 
skin, spread on the ground in one of these 
dwellings, when some young and very pretty 
females entered, bringing with them a huge 
bowl of milk. Out of compliment to them I 
took a long draught; but no, this was insuf- 
ficient. Was it bad ? — try again, and again ! 
In vain I extolled it to the skies ; I was not 
permitted to desist until I had swelled almost 
to suffocation, and sworn by the beard of the 
Prophet that I could and would take no 



48 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [€H. 

more. They were then delighted, and we 
became such excellent friends that, with the 
assistance of a few presents and some fair 
speeches, we parted with expressions of mu- 
tual regret. 

Our return was by a path more steep and 
rugged, if possible, than that by which we 
ascended, and I did not, in consequence, ar- 
rive at the foot of the mountains until some 
time after sunset. No asses were to be 
found : the night was dark, with occasional 
showers of rain : we lost our path several 
times, and did not reach the tent until nearly 
midnight. 

During my stay here, I received the follow- 
ing friendly and characteristic epistle from 
his Highness, the Imam : — 

" In the name of God, most merciful, from 
Sayyid the Sooltan to his Excellency, the es- 
teemed, respected, beloved, the perfect Cap- 
tain Wellsted, from the eastern government, 
peace be with you from the Most High God ; 
and, after that your letter reached us, which 
was a proof of your love in remembering us, 
we greatly rejoiced at your arriving at Sur, 
and your departure for Jailan, which is as 



IV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 41) 

we directed it, and from thence to Semmed, 
and which was gratifying to you, and, there- 
fore, pleasing to us; and, furthermore, any- 
thing which you require from us, whether 
little or much, it is only for you to request it, 
and it is on our part to grant it. Peace be to 
3'ou, and farewell. 

f* True, 
"Sayyid Sooltan." 
December 2nd. My camels and guides were 
collected this morning, and I left Suk el 
$ur, where T had received every attention 
from its Sheikh. At 12*3, p.m., we were clear 
of the skirts of the village, and entered a 
shallow valley. Rounded masses of lime- 
stone formed its bed, between which a few 
stunted acacia bushes, the only signs of 
vegetable life, forced their way. The hills 
on either hand were of a light red, or yellow 
sandstone, with an occasional streak of 
orange or purple. Although in October, 
November, and December, passing showers 
are here frequent, the natives say that heavy 
continued rain is only experienced once in 
three years, and that the bed of this valley 
is then filled with a swollen and rapid stream, 

VOL. I. E 



50 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

that renders it impassable for camels. About 
two we arrived at the pass of Babel Rufsur, 
where there is a small tower, and a piece of 
artillery. These and similar other buildings 
were erected by the Imam to check the in- 
cursions of the Wahhabis : they have now, 
however, been all permitted to fall to decay. 
Some streams of fresh water, with an occa- 
sional date grove, show themselves between 
this and the termination of the valley, which 
we reached at six, p.m. Hence we continued 
over a plain country, until eleven, p.m., when 
we halted near some hamlets, where the dogs 
kept up such a furious barking, and were 
withal so fierce, that my guides, although in 
want of food, were afraid to attempt to pass 
them. The night was clear and cold, and a 
heavy dew was falling. The Bedowins slept 
in a circle, and placed the baggage in the 
centre. 

Thursday, December 3rd. Near to where we 
have encamped there are three walled vil- 
lages, Homaidah, El Kamil, and El Wafee, 
severally containing about two hundred 
houses, and each having a small fort. Both 
within and without the walls, the country is 



IV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 51 

well cultivated, and some streams of running 
water which cross their grounds afford abun- 
dant means of irrigation. The inhabitants 
evinced so much dislike at my looking over 
these fields, that I was obliged to quit them. 

At 1130 we continued our route over an 
extensive plain, where the soil was alter- 
nately either of a very loose drift sand, or 
a whitish indurated clay, covered with say el 
bushes (male acacia). Parties of Bedowins, 
on their way to Sur, occasionally passed 
us, but, as the principal tribes were now 
at feud, a single individual was rarely met 
with beyond the precincts of the villages, 
nor was it without some precaution that our 
own party proceeded. Immediately that an- 
other caffilla was perceived our camels were 
brought together, the guards, as we ap- 
proached nearer, advanced a-head, mutual 
inquiries ensued, and we then passed on. 
Any authority which Sayyid S'aid has ac- 
quired over this district, by the liberal distri- 
bution of presents to its Sheikhs, is more 
nominal than real. The Bedowins follow up 
their own quarrels, plundering, and not un- 
frequently killing each other, with the same 

e 2 



52 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

freedom as if they were on the Desert. 
Scarcely a day passed during my stay that I 
did not hear of some transaction of this na- 
ture. At 330 we halted amidst the dwell- 
ings of the Beni- Abu -Hasan Bedowins, 
which are mostly huts, erected beneath their 
date groves. They are very straggling, and 
we were three quarters of an hour passing 
from one extremity to the other. As soon as 
the intelligence of our arrival had spread, 
they crowded around us in great numbers. 
Their curiosity was unbounded, and they ex- 
pressed their astonishment at all they saw 
in the most boisterous manner, leaping and 
yelling as if they were half crazy. My small 
tent (notwithstanding the presence, and re- 
peated desire of their Sheikh) was soon com- 
pletely filled, and I felt heartily glad when 
the approach of sunset sent them all to their 
houses. 

The Beni-Abu-Hasan Bedowins are esti- 
mated at one thousand two hundred men, 
exclusive of women and children, but they 
cannot muster more than seven hundred 
matchlocks. With no other employment 
than tending their date trees, which occupies 



IV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 53 

but a small portion of their time, they lead 
an idle life, and are constantly engaged in 
quarrels or disputes either amidst themselves 
or their neighbours. In appearance they are 
the wildest and most uncouth beings I have 
hitherto met with : they go almost naked, 
and their hair is worn long, reaching nearly 
to the girdle. 

After sunset I saw no one but the Sheikh, 
who came alone for the purpose of dissuading 
me from visiting the Beni-Abu-'Ali Bedowins, 
whom he characterised as being disaffected 
to Sayyid S'aid, hating the English, and, in a 
word, " perfect devils ;" but, as I knew the 
two tribes were at open variance, I evinced 
less disposition to follow his advice than he 
probably anticipated, and he took his leave, 
in consequence, somewhat coolly. 

In truth, I was not without apprehensions 
as to the treatment I should receive from his 
neighbours, but my reasons will be under- 
stood when I state the circumstances which 
brought the English into collision with them. 



54 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 



CHAPTER V. 

The Beni- Abu- Ali — Their origin — Sayyid Said's ineffectual 
efforts to subdue them— Obtains the assistance of British Troops 
— Disastrous expedition of Captain Thompson — Bravery of the 
Beni-Abu- Ali — Massacre of the British — Gallantry of the 
Imam — Expedition from Bombay— Attack upon the Beni-Abu- 
% Ali Fort— Fortitude of their Women — Final defeat and subju- 
gation — The Author's reception at their Encampment — Defer- 
ence paid to the British name — Hospitality — Oblivion of the 
past — Burckhardt — Visit from the young Sheikh — Discourse 
upon Women — European Customs — Tombs of the Vanquished 
— Contrast between the British and the Bedoicin Soldier. 

The Beni-Abu-'Ali tribe came originally from 
a small district in Nesjd, where a remnant 
of them is said still to exist. They accom- 
panied those who separated from All's army 
during the struggle with Mowaiyah for the 
Caliphate, and continued to follow the Beazi 
tenets until the invasion of Abdul Uziz, in 
1811, when they became converts to the 
Wahhabis faith. From that period they have 
been an object of the most deadly hatred to 
the other tribes in Oman ; and after Abdul 



V.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 55 

Uziz was beaten back at Bediah, their best 
efforts were necessary to prevent their total 
annihilation ; but, continuing to temporise 
until they had erected a very strong fort, 
they, in return, became the aggressors, and, 
after carrying fire and sword into every part 
of the neighbouring district, became so for- 
midable, that they were soon left in undis- 
puted possession of their own and several of 
the neighbouring districts. 

At a later period, several attempts were 
made by the Imam to dislodge or destroy 
them, but all his exertions proving ineffectual, 
in 1821 he made a requisition for assistance 
to Captain Thompson, who, after the fall of 
Ras-el-Khaimah, in the preceding year, had 
been left with a small force of eight hundred 
men, principally sepoys, at the Island of 
Kishm*. Under an impression that some 
portion of the tribe had been engaged in ex- 
tensive acts of piracy, that officer immediately 
dispatched a messenger with a letter of re- 
monstrance to them, but he was massacred 
almost as soon as he landed. Captain Thomp- 

* See Captain Thompson's Report, dated 18th November, 1820. 
—Asiatic Journal, vol. xi. p. 593. 



50 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

son, on the receipt of this intelligence, no 
longer hesitated to accompany a force which 
the Imam had already prepared to act against 
them, and, landing at Sur, he formed a junc- 
tion, and they marched together against Beni- 
Abu-'Ali, which is situated about fifty miles, 
in a direct line, from their place of disem- 
barkment. The Bedowins retreated before 
them, and occupied the date grove which sur- 
rounds the fort. After our troops had passed 
Beni-Abu-Hasan, and were sweeping round 
a hill, the greater part being in a line parallel 
to the trees, the whole tribe, who had hitherto 
lain concealed beneath them, suddenly rushed 
forth with loud cries, and threw themselves 
headlong on the British force. Before the lat- 
ter could be formed, or almost before the order 
could be given, the Bedowins were amidst 
them, the sepoys could not use their bayonets, 
but were hewn down by the long swords of 
their foes as they stood, and the whole soon 
became a mass of inextricable confusion. No 
quarter was given, and an officer, presenting 
his sword as a token of submission, was, at 
the same time, pierced through the back with 
a spear. They dragged the surgeon, who 



V.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 57 

was sick, from his palanquin, and imme- 
diately butchered him ; and the British force, 
leaving two-thirds of their number dead upon 
the field, were compelled to retreat, and, after 
an undisturbed march of about eight days, 
Captain Thompson, two officers, and about 
one hundred and fifty men, the only survivors, 
succeeded in reaching Maskat *. 

Intelligence of this disaster was soon car- 
ried to Bombay, and a large force of three 
thousand men, under Sir Lionel Smith, again 
landed |. Nowise daunted by their superior 
numbers, the Bedowins, in concert with the 
Beni Geneba, planned a night attack, which, 
had it proved successful, would have placed 
the British force in a singular dilemma. The 
General and his staff were encamped at some 
distance from the army, and it was proposed 
by the Bedowins to cut off the whole of them. 



* The Imam, with the remnant of his army, accompanied our 
troops during their march, and it would be an injustice to the 
noble and gallant character of this prince, were I to omit mention- 
ing the resolute bravery with which he maintained his ground, 
even when wounded, and his determination to retreat no farther 
than Beni Hasan, if he had not been deserted by a large portion 
of his army. 

t In January, 1821. 



58 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH- 

But, either through mistake or treachery, the 
latter were not at the rendezvous at the ap- 
pointed time, and the former proceeded alone. 
Having reached the General's camp, they 
hamstrung several of the horses, and com- 
mitted other damages, besides cutting down 
several men. They then effected their escape 
without the loss of one of their own number. 

When our force on their march had nearly 
reached the fort, the Arabs met them on a 
large plain. Their number did not exceed 
eight hundred: many of their women had 
now joined their ranks, and they rushed on 
with the same impetuosity as before, but 
were met at every point by the bayonet: 
they, nevertheless, fought with amazing ob- 
stinacy and courage, and did not give up the 
contest until nearly the whole of them were 
slain or desperately wounded*: amidst the 
latter was their Sheikh, who, with the few 
survivors, was taken prisoner to Bombay. 
After being confined there for almost two 
years they were released ; much attention was 
then shown them, and they were sent back 

* In March, 1821. — Asiatic Journal, xii. 364. 



V.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 59 

to their own country with presents and with 
money to rebuild their town ; but since the 
period of their defeat no European has en- 
tered their territory. 

After my noon observation of the sun, a 
short journey of two hours brought me on to 
Beni-Abu-'Ali. A considerable crowd fol- 
lowed after me until I halted, when I was 
soon joined by the young Sheikh and the 
principal men of the tribe. No sooner had I 
proclaimed myself an Englishman, and ex- 
pressed my intention of passing a few days 
amidst them, than the whole camp was in a 
tumult of acclamation ; the few old guns they 
had were fired from the different towers, 
matchlocks were kept going till sunset, and 
both old and young, male and female, strove 
to do their best to entertain me : they pitched 
my tent, slaughtered sheep, and brought milk 
by gallons. A reception so truly warm and 
hospitable not a little surprised me. 

Before us lay the ruins of the fort we 
had dismantled, — my tent was pitched on the 
very spot where we had nearly annihilated 
their tribe, reducing them from being the 
most powerful in Oman to their present petty 



60 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

state. All, however, in the confidence I had 
shown in thus throwing myself amidst them, 
was forgotten. 

Although so near the sea-coast, the Be- 
dowins of this and the neighbouring districts 
have remained uncontaminated by any inter- 
course with strangers, for they neither inter- 
marry nor mix with them ; and there is, 
therefore, reason to believe that they pre- 
serve, in its strictest forms, all the simplicity 
and purity of the interior tribes. 

It is to be regretted that we know so little 
of the character and habits of the true Be- 
dowins. Those on the frontiers of S^ria and 
Mesopotamia have been vitiated by their in- 
tercourse with the Turks and other nations. 
The same remark applies to the only parts of 
Hedjas and Yemen which our travellers have 
visited. Burckhardt, though well aware of, 
and as well calculated to supply this defi- 
ciency, was prevented by sickness from doing 
so, otherwise it was his intention to have 
passed a few months in the interior pro- 
vinces. My object, therefore, while entering 
fully on what came under my observation 
during my stay amidst these tribes, now and 



V.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. t)\ 

on subsequent occasions, will be to furnish 
something towards this desideratum. 

After their evening prayers, the young 
Sheikh, accompanied by about forty men, 
came to the tent, and expressed his intention 
of remaining with me as a guard during the 
night. To ask the whole party in was impos- 
sible, and to invite a few only would have 
displeased others, so I took my carpet out- 
side amidst them. It was one of those clear 
and beautiful nights which are only met with 
on or near the Desert : the atmosphere felt 
pleasantly cool, and we soon commenced an 
animated conversation. They were not 
wholly ignorant of our customs : some in- 
formation on these points they had gathered 
from the men who had been prisoners of war 
in India ; but their accounts were either so li- 
mited or exaggerated, that they served rather 
to increase than to allay the feelings of cu- 
riosity. The nature and observance of our 
religion formed, of course, their first sub- 
ject of inquiry, and my opinion as to its com- 
parative merits with the Mohammedan was 
demanded. It is generally a good maxim to 
allow yourself to be apparently beaten on 



02 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

questions of theology : I could not, however, 
at first, resist the temptation of leading to 
some of their least defensible doctrines, and 
stating the arguments which could be brought 
to bear against them ; but they evinced so 
little prejudice or fanaticism on these points 
that I regretted having done so, and, to make 
amends, most willingly subscribed to the opi- 
nion of one of their old men, that either faith 
was best adapted for the country and people 
who practised it. 

From this the conversation turned on our 
females. Was it true, they inquired, that 
those of high birth and condition danced in 
public, and went unveiled ? Here they had 
me on the hip, as they fancied; and the 
rogues chuckled whilst awaiting my reply. 
I confessed it was, but we did not, like them, 
attach any indelicacy to it ; that our females 
were never secluded, but were instructed in 
useful knowledge, and allowed equal liberty 
with the other sex, and that we found our 
advantage in doing so, for, instead of being 
objects of mere sensual desire, they then be- 
came companions. Here, however, I gained 
not a single convert. " Let them work," said 



V.J TRAVELS IN OMAN. G.'} 

they, " and attend to their household affairs. 
What business have they with reading and 
writing, which is only fit for Moolahs ? " 
" The women to the distaff, the men to their 
swords," said a venerable old man, with a 
white beard, repeating a proverb which was 
echoed by all present. I wished some of 
their dames had been within hearing, they 
would have pitched their note in a minor 
key. 

The females of this tribe possess a consi- 
derable share of influence in all their coun- 
cils, and in the absence of their Sheikh, who 
had proceeded on the pilgrimage to Mecca, 
his wife and sister, at this moment, governed 
the tribe. Their remarks on some of our 
customs were highly amusing. 

" We observed," said they, " that when 
you sat down to table each man had before 
him a small and a large glass ; why apply to 
the small one so often when it would save so 
much trouble to fill the larger, and drink it 
off at once? Why did we send the ladies 
away before we had finished our wine, and 
yet rise up when they left? " &c, &c. 

One of the slaves kept pounding coffee 



04 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

from the time they first arrived. The pestle 
on these occasions is made to strike the sides 
and bottom of the mortar in such time and 
manner as to cause it to resemble the chiming: 
of bells, and the slave usually accompanies it 
with a song. As we chatted away, although 
Wahhabis, they drank their coffee as fast as 
it was brought, and we did not separate until 
a very late hour*. 

Saturday, December 5th. When I awoke 
this morning I found a man kneeling by me 
with a bowl of milk in his hand. I drank it 
off, and, accompanied by my escort, walked 
over the plain where the British had been 
encamped, and visited the scene of Captain 
Thompson's defeat ; but, on either spot, every 
trace of the fierce encounter had disappeared. 
Near the former some rude graves were 
pointed out to me, but no " frail memorial " 
served to indicate whether their tenants were 
of the party of the victors or of the van- 
quished. It may serve to show the siccity, 

* I had with me some cigars, but, knowing the aversion those 
of that sect have to the use of tobacco, I refrained from pro- 
ducing them; — but, by some means, they discovered they were in 
my possession, and insisted on my smoking, which, to relieve 
myself from their importunities, I was compelled to do. 



V.] TRAVELS IN OMaN. 65 

as well as purity of the atmosphere, to men- 
tion that the bodies of those slain on the first 
attack were found lying upon the sands un- 
touched by worms, and showing not the 
slightest symptoms of decay. 

The Bedowins evinced no disinclination to 
converse on the subject of the war, and their 
own defeat and losses they spoke of in the 
most perfect good humour. They were 
equally merry in their observations on the 
English during their stay in Jailan : their 
mode of attack, the arms and accoutrements 
of the soldiers, &c, being severally criticised 
with much shrewdness. To an Arab, who 
goes to war with no greater burden than his 
camel can well approach or retreat with, 
seldom, indeed, carrying anything beyond 
his arms, a small bag of moistened flour, and 
a skin of water, the quantity of baggage 
which accompanied our troops must have 
been not a little surprising; but what ex- 
cited their utmost astonishment was, that we 
should carry casks of liquor for the men. 
This circumstance was afterwards frequently 
mentioned in Oman. 

VOL. I. F 



0(> TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 



CHAPTER VI. 

Sooltan— Visit to the Sheikh's Wife and Sister — Attachment to 
Ancient Customs — Admiration of the English — Peasants — 
Speech of Bedowin Ladies— Feast — War Dance — Camel Race 
— Arrival of a Geneba Chief— The Author proposes a visit to 
his Horde — Departure — Anecdote — Features of the Desert — 
Appearance of my Companion — Costume — Love of Song — 
Musical Instruments — Summer Tree — Tales of Love and War 
— Intense Cold — Game of Leap Frog — Sheikh" s Wives — In- 
terior of a Tent — Foliage of the Summer Tree— Description 
of the Beni Geneba— Singular substitute for a Canoe — Shark 
Fishing — Salubrious Climate— Modes of Punishment — Start 
for Beni- Abu-' All — A Bedowin Foray. 

Towards noon I went, accompanied by his 
son Sooltan, to visit the wife and sister of the 
old Sheikh, who was now absent on the pil- 
grimage to Mecca. We passed through a 
dirty court-yard filled with cattle into a small 
apartment, the doorway of which was crossed 
by a stile, to secure it from their intrusion. 
This, however, seemed insufficient, for seve- 



VI. J TRAVELS IN OMAN. ()7 

ral had managed to leap it, and were being 
ejected when we arrived. The Bedowins in 
the Desert find it necessary for better se- 
curity to keep their cattle near them, and, as 
they are the last people in the world to aban- 
don old customs, they do the same in the 
towns when they reside there. Some months 
ago, when the Assa'ir tribe occupied Mocha, 
they kept their sheep with them in the upper 
apartments of the very lofty houses of that 
town. The ladies received me seated on a 
platform, raised about two feet from the 
ground, and completely veiled from head to 
foot, not a finger during the whole of the in- 
terview was visible ; but, in order to compen- 
sate, in some measure, for this disappoint- 
ment, some very pretty Abyssinian females, 
who were not veiled, remained in the room to 
attend on them. They expressed themselves 
highly delighted that an Englishman had, at 
last, come among them, but spoke of Sayyid 
S'aid with contempt, and did not conceal 
their desire to throw off their present very 
slight connexion with him. 

"It is the protection of the English we 
w r ant," they observed, " and if your govern- 

f 2 



68 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

ment would grant us that, and should after- 
wards require a port on the coast, by which 
they can open a trade with Oman, as well as 
the interior, we will gladly furnish them with 
one." As they grew more talkative, it was 
with difficulty I prevented them from send- 
ing forth amidst the mountains to collect the 
whole tribe. 

A suite of tents, and several other articles, 
were pointed out to me, which had been sent 
by our government as presents to them. Not- 
withstanding we may, at present, entertain 
very different sentiments respecting our first 
attack on this people, and it is known that at 
least one high and influential member of the 
government did, yet the whole affair was 
quite to a Bedowin's taste, and both here and 
in every other quarter I heard nothing but 
praises of the English. " We have fought, — 
you have made us every compensation in 
your power for those who fell, — and we 
should now be friends," observed these ladies, 
when speaking of the transaction ; but they 
never, it will be seen, have forgiven Sayyid 
S'aid. 

A meal, consisting of camels' flesh, a 



VI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. i)D 

sheep, boiled whole, and large bowls of rice, 
had, in the mean time, been preparing. Di- 
rectly it was brought in the ladies retired, 
leaving Sooltan and myself alone to partake of 
it. Upon my return to the tent I found there 
the whole of the tribe, at Beni-Abu-'Ali, 
consisting of about two hundred and fifty 
men, assembled for the purpose of exhibiting 
their war dance. They had formed a circle, 
within which five or six of their number now 
entered. After walking leisurely round for 
some time, each challenged one of the spec- 
tators by striking him gently with the flat 
of his sword. His adversary immediately 
leaped forth, and a feigned combat ensued. 
They have but two cuts, one directly down- 
wards at the head, and the other horizontally 
across the legs. They parry neither with the 
sword nor shield, but avoid the blows by 
leaping or bounding backwards. The blade 
of their sword is three feet in length, straight, 
thin, double-edged, and as sharp as a razor. 
As they carry it upright before them, by a 
peculiar motion of their wrist they cause it to 
vibrate in a very remarkable manner, which 
has a singularly striking effect when they are 



70 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

assembled in any considerable number. The 
shield is attached to the sword by a leathern 
thong ; it measures about fourteen inches in 
diameter, and is generally used to parry the 
thrust of the spear, or jambeer. It was part 
of the entertainment to fire off their match- 
locks under the legs of some one of the spec- 
tators, who appeared too intent on watching 
the game to observe their approach, and any 
signs of alarm which incautiously escaped 
the individual, added greatly to their mirth. 
Their only music consisted of a small drum, 
beaten by a slave. 

After exercising their skill in firing at a 
mark, during which some capital shots were 
made, they all dispersed, Towards evening 
a large party of Geneba Bedowins arrived, 
and two of their camels were matched to run 
against the same number belonging to the 
Beni-Abu-'Ali. As I had never before wit- 
nessed a camel race, I felt much interest in 
the spectacle. They rode them with nose- 
strings as well as bridles, but the animals 
did not appear to take an equal relish in the 
sport with their masters, for they could not 
be set going without much trouble, and w r ere 



VI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 71 

afterwards very untractable. Their speed, 
when at full gallop, I did not think very great, 
perhaps a third less than that of a horse, and 
when they are urged to this pace their gait 
and movement appear excessively awkward. 

Finding the Sheikh who accompanied the 
party was a lively intelligent fellow, I pro- 
posed to take a run for a few days with him 
in his own country. After inquiring my 
motives, and finding that it was merely to 
live amongst them for that time, he gave a 
hearty consent. In the evening I was visited, 
as usual, by a large party, and we had some 
singing in the Bedowin style. 

December 6th. I found the Sheikh and 
his followers, consisting of fifty Bedowins, 
mounted on camels, this morning all ready 
for starting, and we were soon clear of the 
skirts of the town, and away at a full trot 
over the Desert. The air was cold and pure, 
the sun just sufficiently high to render its 
warmth agreeable, while the wild appearance 
and movements of my Bedowin friends gave 
an exhilarating novelty to my sensations: 
even the very solitude of the scene rendered 
it the more pleasing. While sweeping across 



72 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

these solitary and boundless wastes, although 
destitute of trees, mountains, and water, or 
any of the features common to softer regions, 
there is something in their severely simple 
features, their nakedness and immensity, 
which reminds me of the trackless ocean, 
and impresses the soul with a feeling of sub- 
limity. The aspect of my companion is in 
perfect keeping with the peculiar attributes 
of his native land. His sinewy form, and 
clean and compact limbs, are revealed by 
the scantiness of his garments : his dark and 
ruddy countenance is lighted up by the 
kindling of his resolute eye : his demeanour 
is honest and frank, and his whole appear- 
ance breathes a manly contempt of hard- 
ships. 

" You wished," said the Sheikh, " to see 
the country of the Bedowins — this,'" he con- 
tinued, striking his spear into the firm sand, 
" this is the country of the Bedowins." 
Neither he nor his companions wore more 
than a single cloth around their waist, all the 
rest of the body being left bare. Their hair, 
which is permitted to flow unconfined as low 
as their waist, and is usually kept loaded 



VI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 73 

with grease, protects them, in a measure, 
from the intensity of the sun's rays, but they 
adopt no other covering. For a short time 
after leaving the town they kept together, 
but now they were away in all directions, 
chasing each other with loud shouts across 
the plains. In this manner we continued 
over a level country, intersected by traces of 
numerous torrents, for about four hours, and 
then crossed a narrow ridge of low, calcareous 
hills : in two hours more we entered amidst 
some mounds, thickly interspersed with the 
summer or gum Arabic tree (Acacia vera). 
Very little of the gum is collected by the 
Bedowins, who complain that the price it 
brings in Maskat does not repay them for 
their trouble. At 4- 30, w r e halted near 
some wells of brackish water. Our course 
hitherto has been south -south -west, and 
the distance we have travelled is forty-two 
miles. A party of the natives, who joined us 
directly we halted, were sent on for rice and 
dates ; we, in the mean time, had lighted a 
fire under a large tree, and lost no time, as 
soon as they returned, which was not till 
sunset, in cooking what they brought, when I 



74 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

with the rest, made a very hearty meal. I 
had with me neither servant nor baggage, 
conceiving that, even for the short time I 
should remain amongst them, the objects of 
my journey would be best attained by adopt- 
ing their mode of living ; and the result did not 
disappoint me. Among all these tribes there 
appears to exist a considerable portion of tra- 
ditionary lore, of which the details of the 
wars and predatory excursions of themselves 
and ancestors form the greatest and most at- 
tractive portion. The exploits of a favourite 
horse or camel are dwelt on with equal en- 
thusiasm. I sat up drinking coffee, and list- 
ening to their recitation of these events, 
until a very late hour. Several watch-dogs 
kept guard round our encampment during 
the night *. 

* The Bedowin still retains that passionate love of song for 
which his race has ever been distinguished. Whether tending his 
flock, beguiling the tediousness of a journey, or seated after his 
evening cheer at the fire, the Arab constantly breaks out into some 
ditty, the theme of which is either love or war. Seated cross-legged 
under the scanty shade of the date-palm, I have often listened to one 
of them thus amusing himself for hours. The only accompaniment 
is a rude guitar with two strings. Although nothing can be fur- 
ther removed from our idea of melody, yet their sentiment and 
expression are admirably suited to the scenes they describe, and 
are also strikingly illustrative of the peculiar character of their 



VI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 75 

Sunday, December 1th. Towards midnight 
we had hard rain, which continued without 
intermission until sunrise. It was piercingly 
cold, and, as we could obtain no shelter, we 
were thoroughly drenched. To the Bedowins 
it afforded infinite pleasure, as they were 
now sure of pasturage for some time. At 
daylight, to divest our limbs of their numb- 
ness, we jumped and ran races, until I be- 
thought myself of our English game of leap- 
frog. Very great was the diversion this af- 
forded them, until our breakfast of milk and 
dates was announced, after which we packed 
up, and resumed our journey. At eight, a.m., 
we continued to thread our way to the 
west -south -west, between the same sandy 
mounds as yesterday, until four, p.m., when 
we arrived at a small encampment, in which 
dwelt the Sheikh's wives : shortly after- 
minds. Combinations the most harsh and rugged form the most 
striking feature of their music, as often, when their movements 
are grave and slow, as when they are brisk and lively. In the for- 
mer they often exhibit much grave and melancholy thought, in the 
latter they not unfrequently spring up simultaneously, and join, to 
the full extent of their voices, in a rudje chorus. I found no surer 
way of exciting a kindly feeling towards myself, when among this 
rude people, than by listening with apparent interest to these per- 
formances. 



7(3 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

wards, the good dames sent for me. I found 
them in a small hut of a conical form, con- 
structed of poles, fastened to the upper part 
with leathern thongs, and covered with skins. 
It was so very small, that two persons lying 
down would fill its whole area. The women 
were seated on an old carpet near a good fire, 
and I was invited to place myself between 
them. They were unveiled, and entered 
freely into conversation with me. After an- 
swering a hundred questions connected with 
the English and their country, coffee, and 
then milk, were introduced. They brought 
the latter in a bowl wove from the husk of 
the cocoa-nut, but its texture was so close that 
none escaped. I saw no other furniture ex- 
cept a few skins, for holding dates or water ; 
an earthen pot for boiling coffee ; and two or 
three copper vessels for rice ; together with a 
few ragged camolines, mats or skins, on 
which they sleep. A heap of salt fish lay in 
one corner. After making them a few trifling 
presents, with which they were highly de- 
lighted, I took my leave, and walked out 
with the Sheikh to seek for botanical speci- 
mens, of which I found a great abundance. 



VI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 77 

I remark both here and in other parts of 
Arabia, that the trees which are at all um- 
brageous, have the ground immediately be- 
neath them, even in the most sultry weather, 
damp with moisture, and generally covered 
with a thin sprinkling of grass, on which the 
cattle feed with much avidity. This appears 
owing to some peculiar property which their 
foliage possesses of retaining the falling dew, 
which is usually more copious in the Desert 
than elsewhere, for I have frequently in the 
morning observed the leaves of the sumr 
tree (Acacia vera) to be slightly curved up- 
wards, with a drop or two of water in them. 
These, as the sun exerts its influence, assume 
their natural form, and the moisture is de- 
posited on the ground beneath. Under their 
shade, the more vigorous vegetation which 
springs up after rain derives nourishment for 
some time after that which is more exposed 
appears dried up and withered. Neverthe- 
less, it is very remarkable that the most suc- 
culent plants are found in those spots which 
receive the full force of the sun's rays. 

The Beni Geneba, or " Wandering Chil- 
dren," are a scattered race of about three 



78 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [(IH. 

thousand five hundred men, the greater num- 
ber of whom are found occupying the country 
south from Beni-Abu-'Ali to Cape Isolette ; 
but there are several families who live inter- 
mixed with other Bedowins on the interme- 
diate wastes between the Great Desert to 
the westward, as well as on the Oasis of 
Oman, together with some few who reside 
with their principal Sheikh at Sur. To this 
individual all grave offences are referred, 
and he is responsible to the Imam for the 
general conduct of the tribe. The Beni 
Geneba present some peculiarities which 
render them, in a measure, distinct from 
other Bedowins. Although, as I have no- 
ticed, their numerical superiority is not great, 
yet they spread over a large extent of coun- 
try, and are divided into two distinct classes ; 
those who subsist by fishing, and such as fol- 
low pastoral pursuits. We will first consider 
the former. 

It is a remarkable fact that a race in many 
respects similar is found in almost every part 
of the coast of Arabia, and even along the 
north-east shore of India and Macrau. In 
some districts, as those, for instance, which 



VI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 7,9 

lie to the northward of Jiddah in the Red 
Sea, they are considered as a separate and 
degraded race, with whom the Bedowins will 
neither eat, intermarry, nor associate; but 
with this and several other tribes, so degrad- 
ing a distinction does not exist. The whole 
coast abounds with fish, and, as the natives 
have but few canoes, they generally substi- 
tute a single inflated skin, or two of these, 
having a flat board across them. On this 
frail contrivance the fisher seats himself, and 
either casts his small hand-net, or plays his 
hook and line. Some capital sport must 
arise occasionally when the sharks, which 
are here very numerous and large, gorge the 
bait; for whenever this occurs, unless the 
angler cuts his line, and that, as the shark is 
more valued than any other fish, he is often 
unwilling to do, nothing can prevent his rude 
machine from following their track, and the 
fisherman is sometimes, in consequence, car- 
ried out a great distance to sea. It requires 
considerable dexterity to secure these mon- 
sters, for when they are hauled up near to the 
skins they struggle a good deal, and if they 
happen to jerk the fisherman from his seat, 



80 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

the infuriate monster is said to dash at once 
at him. Many accidents, I learn, arise in 
this manner, but if they succeed in getting 
him quickly alongside they soon despatch 
him by a few blows on the snout. After the 
fish is brought to the shore it is either dried 
or salted, and that portion not required for 
their own consumption, is conveyed into the 
interior and exchanged for dates and cloth. 
In the cool season the pastoral Arabs of this 
tribe reside, for the sake of more plentiful 
herbage, at or near the sea-coast, living, as 
those I have already noticed, in small tents, 
constructed with poles, and covered with 
skins ; but, upon the approach of the south- 
west monsoon, they retreat to the hills, and 
become regular Troglodytes. They then oc- 
cupy, with their flocks, the most secluded 
valleys, where the pasturage is usually better 
than on the plains. The whole of this tribe 
are in bad repute with their neighbours, 
and it is said that they make no scruple of 
plundering boats which may be unfortu- 
nate enough to fall into their clutches. It 
was the Beni Geneba that approached the 
American sloop Peacock, when aground near 



VI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 81 

Mazura, in 1835, with the intention, it was 
supposed, of plundering her : this intention, 
however, they stoutly deny. Milk, dates, 
and fish form their principal food, and, as the 
water is indifferent, they drink large quan- 
tities of the former. Their dates are ob- 
tained principally from the extensive groves 
at Beni-AbiVAli, with the people of which 
they are intimately connected by the ties of 
blood. 

Their country boasts a very salubrious 
climate. Invalids from Maskat frequently 
reside here for two or three months, par- 
taking of the simple food of its inhabitants, 
and they are said, even in the most obstinate 
cases, to derive great benefit from it. As to 
their modes of punishment, for stealing a 
camel, sheep, &c, provided it is the first of- 
fence, simple restitution only, is insisted on ; 
for the second, they impose a fine ; and 
for the third, the offender is manacled and 
imprisoned. Fines are also inflicted for 
abusive language : murder or manslaughter, 
as with other tribes, is revenged on the of- 
fender by the relations of the deceased. 

Tuesday, December 8th. At ten, a.m., we 

VOL. I. g 



82 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

decamped to return to Beni-Abu-'Ali by an- 
other route, more to the westward. Very 
much did I regret being compelled to do so, 
since I might, with my present escort, with- 
out the slightest fear of interruption, have 
proceeded to the confines of the Mahara 
Bedowins ; but Oman, " metal more attrac- 
tive," was before me. Until 1*30, the face 
of the country continued the same as I 
have before described it, but afterwards we 
crossed some arid plains, exhibiting neither 
trees nor bushes, and displaying alternately 
either a pebbly surface, or extensive saline 
incrustations. At sunset we halted for a 
short time to feed the camels, and then, as 
the night was fine, resumed our journey. 
At 12*45, after a long ride, at a hard pace, 
of fourteen hours, we arrived at a small Be- 
dowin encampment, where we put up for 
the night. What an enviable attainment is 
that of being able to sleep on a camel ! By 
the time I reached our halting-place I was 
fairly tired out, but, with the exception of 
the Sheikh, who rode alongside of, and was 
chatting with me, every other individual of 
the party had fallen into a sound slumber. 



VI.j TRAVELS IN OMAN. 83 

December 9th. Early this morning we again 
set forward, and, after a pleasant ride, at a 
good round pace, arrived at Beni-Abu-'Ali. I 
found the greater number of the tribe as- 
sembled around the tent, and, upon inquiry, 
discovered that some Bedowins of the neigh- 
bouring tribe, of Beni-'Abu-Hasan, had ap- 
proached during the night, and purloined a 
goat which had been sent by the Sheikh of 
Kamil the day before as a present for me. 
My servants having made the head man of 
the tribe acquainted with it, they were wait- 
ing my arrival to retaliate upon the plun- 
derers by seizing some of their cattle, and it 
was not without difficulty that I dissuaded 
them from this intention. Among these war- 
like tribes the most trifling incident is suf- 
ficient to set them by the ears, and I am told 
scarcely a year passes that the Imam is not 
compelled to send some influential individual 
to adjust their broils. 



g 4 2 



B4 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH, 



CHAPTER VII. 

Departure — Hospitable Invitation — Copious Dews — Dreary 
Prospect — Inroads of the Sand — How arrested— Scarcity of 
Water— Melancholy fate of a Bedowin Family — Wddi Bethd — 
Abundance of Water in Oman — Water Skins —Anecdote — 
BedVah — Its low situation — Subterraneous Watercourses — 
Magnificent Trees— Abundance and Excellence of the Fruit — 
Amazing Fertility— Accident — Medical Patients —Anecdote — 
Encamp at Ibrah — Presents — Description of the Town — 
Market — Inquisitiveness of Bedowin Ladies — An alarm. 

Thursday, December \§th. I quitted Beni- 
Abu-'Ali this morning shortly before noon. 
The old men begged I would come again, 
and pass a month with them, in which case 
they promised to build a house " like those 
in India," and keep me in great state. The 
ladies were equally pressing in their en- 
treaties, and the whole tribe accompanied me 
to the skirts of the village of Beni-'Abu-Ha- 
san. " If you will visit us next year," said 
young Sooltan, " my father will have returned 



VII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 85 

from Mecca, and I will accompany you with 
a party of our own and the Geneba Bedowins 
as far as the limits of the Maharas." This I 
promised, if circumstances permitted, and, 
after shaking hands with all present, which 
they had learnt was our custom, we parted with 
mutual expressions of regret. I cannot forget 
the unaffected kindness which I experienced 
from this simple people, and shall ever recal 
the week spent with them and their neigh- 
bours as the most agreeable in my travels. 

At 1*30 we passed the extremity of the 
Beni-'Abu-Hasan village. There are very 
few houses either here or at Beni-Abu-'Ali, 
and those few are small and rudely con- 
structed. The natives occupy huts of various 
forms, built of the branches of the date 
palm. We now entered a shallow valley, 
called Wadi Betha, with large goff (Acacia 
Arabica), and sumr trees (Acacia Vera), on 
either hand ; from the latter the gum Arabic 
is produced. Neibik trees (Lotus Neba) in 
the bed of the valley are also numerous. A 
Bedowin hut occasionally peeps forth from 
beneath the trees, and some few cattle are 



8(J TRAVELS IN OMAN, [ch. 

browsing on the grass which grows beneath 
them. 

At 4*30, we passed Kamil, and at seven 
halted for the night amidst some sand 
downs about iifty feet in height. The night 
was clear, and the atmosphere of such un- 
common purity that, not even in Egypt, do 
the stars shine forth with greater brilliancy. 
This I observed to be generally the case in 
extensive sandy tracts. But why are the 
dews so heavy, and the nights so cool on the 
Desert? The former are often so copious 
that they leave on the ground all the effects 
of a smart shower ; and however torrid and 
parching may be the heat of the day, yet it is 
always succeeded by cool, and even cold 
nights. 

Friday, December Wth. I rose this morning 
at an early hour, and scrambled to the sum- 
mit of one of the highest of the sand hills, in 
order to obtain a view of the surrounding 
country. In the bleak and desolate expanse 
before me I discerned, as far as the eye could 
reach, nothing but hillocks of sand, rolled in 
from the Desert like the waves of the sea, until 



VII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 87 

their course had been arrested by the barrier 
on which I stood. Upon inquiry I could not 
learn that this was progressing, and my own 
observation induced me to think it was not, 
for, upon examination, I found that the hil- 
locks which formed such an impediment to 
their encroachments, were covered with rak* 
and other Desert bushes, the roots of which 
sink deep into the sand, and there become 
matted, producing the same effects as the 
bent star in England. A single bush, from 
this peculiarity, arrests the progress of the 
sand, and collects it into a mound : other 
bushes spring forth on its surface, and they 
thus continue receiving alternately separate 
layers of sand and increased vegetation, until 
they attain considerable magnitude. Was it 
not for this happy provision, a flood of sand 
must long ago have overwhelmed the country 
to the very base of the seaward range of 
mountains. As there is but little water be- 
yond this barrier, the wells being many days 
apart, the Bedowins rarely venture to cross 

* Cissus Arborea of Forskal. The smaller branches of this 
tree are used in Arabia for tooth brushes. It was held in such 
high estimation among the ancient Arabs and Egyptians as to be 
celebrated by their poets. 



88 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

it, for the hillocks are said to alter their out- 
line, and even shift their position with every 
strong breeze that blows : they consequently 
lose their marks, and very distressing acci- 
dents frequently occur. Last night, Hamed 
related to me that when a young man, he, 
his father, and about twenty of their tribe, 
encountered near this spot a party of 
Wahhabis, by whom they were defeated, and 
compelled to fly with their wives, who ac- 
companied them. Several of their tribe had 
occasionally crossed the Desert to some wells 
about three days' journey from the barrier, 
in the vicinity of which there was water and 
good pasturage. Here it was their intention 
to have remained until the hostile party had 
passed on, and left the road open for their 
return. But on the second day they were 
overtaken by a strong gale from the west- 
ward, which obliterated every trace of the 
path, and so filled the air with dust that 
they were unable to discern objects beyond 
a few yards. In this emergency they 
crowded together near a tree, where they 
had no alternative but to remain until there 
should be a change for the better; but the 



VII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 89 

gale continued unabated for three days. On 
the third day from their leaving the barrier, 
(their small stock of water being consumed 
on the first,) they killed the only two of 
their camels which could be spared, but the 
quantity thus obtained was soon exhausted 
amidst so many; and on the fifth morning 
two of their females and a young man, 
Hamed's brother, died. On the sixth day 
they reached the wells, but their horror may 
be conceived when they found them filled 
nearly to the surface with sand*. "We 

* The supply of water is so plentiful in Oman, that we seldom 
had occasion to carry it with us ; when we did, it was placed in 
skins called girbars, and all the hides of the sheep or goats killed 
during our journey were kept for this purpose : those of kids or 
lambs serve for milk, while the larger are used for either wine or 
water. They are tanned with the bark of the acacia, and the 
hairy part, which is left without, is generally, though not invari- 
ably, cleansed. The apertures through which the legs protruded 
are closed up, and the fluid within is discharged through the 
opening of the neck, which is gathered together, and fastened by 
means of a leathern thong, its extremity being cut in the form of 
a tongue or spout. They are slung alongside their camels, and a 
Bedowin when thirsty may frequently be observed drinking from 
them whilst in that position. They answer better than jars, be- 
cause if the camel run against trees or his fellow beasts in the 
caravan, they are not liable to be broken, and from the evaporation 
constantly going on, the water is also kept perfectly cool, but whilst 
new, sufficient attention is not paid to cleansing them, and their 
contents thus acquire a loathsome taste and smell. A disagree- 



90 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

knew of no other," said Hamed, " nearer 
than three days, but, being then too weak 
to proceed further, we quietly laid our- 
selves down to die. I recollect nothing after 
that night, until I found myself lashed on a 
camel, and my father alongside of me driving 
it. From him I learnt that we were disco- 
vered on the following morning by another 
party of our own tribe, who had just filled 
their skins at a well not half a mile from us, 
and that we were now on our way with them 
to our own hamlet." 

At seven hours we left our encampment, 
and resumed our journey along Wadi Betha, 
which still continues shallow, exhibiting on 
its surface a few dwarfish bushes. At ten 
hours we passed a halting place called 
Roocsat, where there is water, and from 
thence crossed over a plain and desert coun- 
try, the face of which is furrowed by nume- 

able appearance is also imparted to the water from grease, with 
which the Arabs lubricate the inner side to prevent it from oozing 
through. How immutable are Eastern customs ! These are the 
bottles so frequently alluded to in the Scriptural narrative ; and in 
the Antiquities of Herculaneum, vol. vii. p. 197, will be seen the 
representation of a female pouring wine into a vessel from a skin 
precisely similar to what 1 have here described. 



VII. j TRAVELS IN OMAN. 91 

rous shallow ravines. When rain falls on the 
mountains these serve as channels to feed 
the main stream, which flows along the bed 
of the valley with much impetuosity, and 
finally discharges itself into the sea at Ras 
Mazura. As the chain where they originate 
is, however, of primitive formation, and the 
country through which they subsequently 
pass of an arid and sandy description, they 
bring no fertilising principle : yet the water, 
filtering through the channel during their 
brief course, affords, by means of wells, a 
plentiful supply at other seasons of the year. 

At four, p.m., we halted at the frontier 
village of the Bedi'ah district. From Beni- 
Abu-'Ali to this point I count sixteen hours 
slow travelling, or forty-two miles ; and, as the 
road w 7 inds very little, this may be con- 
sidered the correct distance, as I found from 
its agreeing with the observations. The 
Arabs call all the portion of country from 
Beni-Abu-'Ali to this point, Ja'ilan. 

Bedi'ah is a collection of seven hamlets, 
situated in as many oases, each containing 
from two to three hundred houses. The suk, 
or market, is held on that which is the most 



92 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

centrical. For their relative position I must 
refer the reader to the map, which, being 
originally constructed on a large scale, ena- 
bled me, as I proceeded, to fill up a descrip- 
tion of the face of the country on it. One 
striking feature in the appearance of these 
towns is their low situation. They are erected 
in artificial hollows, which have been exca- 
vated to the depth of six or eight feet, and the 
soil thus removed is left in hillocks around 
their margins. These were the first oases I 
had hitherto met with, and my attention was 
consequently forcibly drawn to them. I found 
that these, and nearly all the towns in the 
interior of Oman, owe their fertility to the 
happy manner in which the inhabitants have 
availed themselves of a mode of conducting 
water to them, a mode, as far as I know, pecu- 
liar to this country, and at an expense of 
labour and skill more Chinese than Arabian. 
The greater part of the face of the country 
being destitute of running streams on the sur- 
face, the Arabs have sought in elevated places 
for springs or fountains beneath it ; by what 
mode they discover these I know not ; but it 
seems confined to a peculiar class of men, 



VII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 93 

who go about the country for the purpose; 
but I saw several which had been sunk to the 
depth of forty feet. A channel from this 
fountain-head is then, with a very slight de- 
scent, bored in the direction in which it is to 
be conveyed, leaving apertures at regular 
distances, to afford light and air to those who 
are occasionally sent to keep it clean. In 
this manner water is frequently conducted 
from a distance of six or eight miles, and an 
unlimited supply is thus obtained. These 
channels are usually about four feet broad, 
and two feet deep, and contain a clear rapid 
stream. Few of the large towns or oases but 
had four or five of these rivulets or feleji 
running into them. The isolated spots to 
which water is thus conveyed possess a soil 
so fertile, that nearly every grain, fruit, or 
vegetable, common to India, Arabia, or Per- 
sia, is produced almost spontaneously ; and 
the tales of the oases will be no longer re- 
garded as an exaggeration, since a single step 
conveys the traveller from the glare and sand 
of the Desert, into a fertile tract, watered by 
a hundred rills, teeming with the most luxu- 



94 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [(JH. 

riant vegetation, and embowered by lofty and 
stately trees whose umbrageous foliage the 
fiercest rays of a noontide sun cannot pene- 
trate. The almond, fig, and walnut trees are 
of enormous size, and the fruit clusters so 
thickly on the orange and lime trees, that I 
do not believe a tenth part can be gathered. 
Above all, towers the date-palm, adding its 
shade to the sombre picture. Some idea may 
be formed of the density of this shade by 
the effect it produces in lessening the terres- 
trial radiation. A Fahrenheit's thermometer, 
which within the house stood at 55°, six 
inches from the ground, fell to 45°. From this 
cause, and an abundance of water, they are 
always saturated with damp, and even in the 
heat of the day possess a clammy coldness. 
Such spots present, indeed, a singular and 
peculiar scene, unequalled perhaps in any 
part of the world. Of this, nothing can fur- 
nish a more striking idea than the list of their 
productions, all of which are frequently reared 
in a plot of ground not more than three hun- 
dred yards in diameter ; and I am confident 
no equal space, in any part of the world, will 



VII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 95 

afford a catalogue more numerous and varied, 
more luxuriant in growth, or more perfect in 
form. 

Saturday, December 12th. The people here 
are less curious than might have been ex- 
pected, considering it is doubtful if they have 
seen an European before. They pass with a 
single gaze, and then leave me to the undis- 
turbed enjoyment of my pursuits. I discovered 
to-day, to my great mortification, that the 
jolting of the camels had rendered my chro- 
nometer useless, although it was packed with 
the utmost care. I am consequently obliged 
to have recourse to the occultation of the stars 
by the moon, as a means of obtaining the 
longitude. To a person who is stationary, this 
presents a very facile mode ; but to the tra- 
veller, many circumstances constantly arise, 
which render the possibility of its adoption 
less frequent than could be wished. I found 
the latitude of the place by a meridional ob- 
servation and the mean of several stars, to be 
22° 27' ; the variation by morning and evening 
observation, was 2*7 westerly. 

Sunday, \3th. I had several applications 
made to me this evening for medicine. Fevers, 



66 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

and ulcers on the legs, were the most pre- 
valent complaints : both seem to arise from 
the cold and damp of their dwellings, which 
are erected in the neighbourhood of grounds 
continually saturated with moisture. At eight, 
a.m., we proceeded N.W. J W., along Wadi 
Betha, and passed several hamlets on either 
side the road. At nine hours forty-five, we 
arrived at the suk, or market. This place is 
celebrated for two defeats of the Wahhabis, 
one in 1811, when their force was under the 
direction of Abduliziz *, and the other a few 
months after my visit. On the former occasion, 
among others, there fell a chief named Sheikh 
Mutlock, whose son, Seyyid Ibn Mutlock, then 
but a boy, was with him on the field. With 
much of that vindictive feeling which forms 
so prominent a feature in the character of the 
Arab, the young Sheikh from that moment 
continued to cherish the most deadly hatred 

* The genealogy of the Wahhabi chiefs is as follows : — Fasil, 
the present Imam, as he is now styled, Ibn Furkey, Ibn Abdallah, 
Ibn Mohammed, Ibn Saoud, Ibn Abduliziz, and Ibn Saaud, who, in 
1747, became a proselyte of the reformer Abdoul Wahhab. Abdu- 
liziz here referred to is the individual who, in 1801, pillaged and 
burnt the town and magnificent mausoleum of Imam Hassein, 
and with ruthless barbarity butchered indiscriminately all the men, 
women, and children, that fell into his hands. 



VII.] TRAVELS .IN OMAN. 97 

to the tribe, and when, this year, he was ap- 
pointed to the command of the Wahhabi fron- 
tier force at Bireimah, although the Wahhabis 
were at peace with the Imam, he suddenly 
marched with three thousand men direct to 
Bedi'ah. But the tribe he had destined to de- 
struction, receiving intelligence of this move- 
ment two hours before he made his appearance, 
they collected eight hundred men, all who were 
then present, to oppose him. These were well 
armed, and the Sheikh's threats that he would 
afford no quarter urged them to their best 
efforts. Notwithstanding their unequal num- 
bers, they attacked the Wahhabis so unex- 
pectedly, and with such fury, that they drove 
them from the field, and after slaying a great 
many, compelled the others to seek for safety 
in flight. The Sheikh, almost maddened at 
his defeat, was foremost in every danger, and, 
but for the devotion of a few who hurried him 
from the field, he too would, on the same spot, 
have probably shared the fate of his father. 
After halting a short time at this village, wait- 
ing for our camels, we continued N. N.W. 
until twelve, when we arrived at Cawbil, 
which is walled round and has several forts. 

VOL. I. h 



9H TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

The Sheikh met me at one of the gates, and 
accompanied me on foot through the town ; 
he appeared very anxious I should halt here, 
but I was desirous to push on to Ibrah. The 
tops of the houses and the windows were 
crowded with people assembled to see us. 
At one hour we passed Dereeza, and at 
1*30, Moderak; both small oases with vil- 
lages within them. At two hours, the country, 
which had hitherto presented a succession of 
plains, now alters its character. Low hills of 
limestone formation, about one hundred and 
fifty feet in height, intersect it. Jackals 
and hyenas occupy the numerous caverns 
which its surface presents. At 5*30, wind- 
ing from N. N. W. to W. N. W., still along 
Wadi Beth a, we arrived at the town of 
Ibrah. 

I pitched my tent in the dry bed of a tor- 
rent, within a few yards of the Date Grove. 
A clear and sparkling stream flowed around 
its margin, and on its banks were seated 
several females, who had been bathing, and 
were then, notwithstanding my approach, 
nearly in a state of nudity. Others were 
washing linen, or cleansing their bright cop- 



VII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 99 

per cooking-pots ; and all laughed and chat- 
ted with much volubility. Halting imme- 
diately after, I received the usual offering of a 
sheep and several bowls of milk ; but during 
the evening I was troubled with but few 
visitors. 

Monday, 14th. Accompanied by old Saaf I 
visited the town, formerly a place of some 
note, but now greatly fallen to decay. The 
instant you step from the Desert within the 
Grove, a most sensible change of the atmo- 
sphere is experienced. The air feels cold and 
damp ; the ground in every direction is satu- 
rated with moisture ; and, from the density of 
the shade, the whole appears dark and gloomy. 
There are still some handsome houses at 
Ibrah ; but the style of building is quite pecu- 
liar to this part of Arabia. To avoid the damp, 
and catch an occasional beam of the sun 
above the trees, they are usually very lofty. 
A parapet encircling the upper part is tur- 
reted ; and on some of the largest houses guns 
are mounted. The windows and doors have 
the Saracenic arch, and every part of the build- 
ing is profusely decorated with ornaments of 
stucco in bas relief, some in very good taste. 

h 2 



100 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [cH. 

The doors are also cased with brass, and have 
rings and other massive ornaments of the same 
metal. 

A daily market for the sale of grain, fruit, 
and vegetables is held here, to which the 
Bedowins and inhabitants of the neighbour- 
ing villages resort in considerable numbers. 
The stalls at which the venders take their 
stand are only occupied during the hours of 
business. They are small square buildings, 
surrounded by a low wall, roofed over, open 
in front, and have a floor raised about two 
feet from the level of the street. Adjoining 
to Ibrah, within about two hundred yards, 
there is another small town, but the inhabit- 
ants are at feud with each other, and a crowd 
which followed us from the former would not 
enter within the precincts of the latter. On 
the rugged and pinnacled heights in the 
vicinity of this and the neighbouring towns 
there are perched several round towers, which 
serve as strongholds in intestine feuds or 
against foreign invasion. In many of them 
there are wells, and they are usually suffi- 
ciently stored with provisions ; so that in a 
country where artillery is seldom used, they 



Vli.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 101 

would be capable of holding out for a long 
time. Ibrah is justly renowned for the beauty 
and fairness of its females. Those we met in 
the streets evinced but little shyness, and on 
my return to the tent I found it filled with 
them. They were in high glee at all they saw ; 
every box I had was turned over for their in- 
spection, and whenever I attempted to remon- 
strate against their proceedings, they stopped 
my mouth with their hands. With such dam- 
sels there was nothing left but to laugh and 
look on. Saaf, a sober, staid personage, seated 
himself in a corner, where he remained silent, 
and, to appearance, perfectly horrified at 
the passing scene. On one occasion, how- 
ever, their mischievous pranks got the better 
of his philosophy, and arming himself with a 
horsewhip, he would have dispersed the party 
by no very gentle means if I had not pre- 
vented him. Towards evening these good 
dames took their departure, and their place 
was filled with far less entertaining visitors — 
some senseless and bigoted old Moolahs, and 
a few rude and troublesome young men. I 
got rid of the former, who had come for the 
purpose of disputation, by subscribing to all 



102 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

they asserted, and Saaf s influence rid me of 
the latter. 

After obtaining a meridian observation for 
the latitude, which I made 22*41, we left our 
encampment. In passing through the town 
a crowd of vagabonds (aided by all the 
children) rose up and fairly hooted us through 
it. A few stones were also thrown, one of 
which struck me on the arm. I then turned 
to a group of old men, and inquired if it were 
possible that this could be a town of Sayyid 
S'aid's? They made an attempt at inter- 
ference; but it was very plainly to be per- 
ceived that they were rather pleased than dis- 
satisfied at the riot. At last, feeling seriously 
apprehensive for my servants, who were fol- 
lowing at some distance, I faced about to join 
them, and the inhabitants seeing I had fire- 
arms, and thinking I was about to use them, 
scampered off in all directions. We availed 
ourselves of this panic, and got through the 
gate, after which they did not attempt to fol- 
low us. It is disturbances of this nature 
which a traveller has most to fear, for a mob 
in an Eastern town, when once raised, quickly 
proceeds to acts of violence ; but I must re- 



ML.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 103 

mark, that this was the only part of the 
Imam's dominions where I was not received 
with the utmost attention, and it is not pro- 
bable we should have been thus insulted had 
the Sheikh himself been present. 



104 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

Mountain Scenery — Sagacity of the Camel — Climate of Oman — 
A Thief— Gum Arabic — Attachment to the Camel, laughable 
Anecdote — Lieutenant Whitelock — Breakfast with the Sheikh 
of Semmed — Interior of his Fortress — Hospitality — Gravity of 
Bedowin youth — Anecdote — Sheikh Nassen—Bedowin robbers 
— Anecdote — Minna — Beautiful Scenery — Honesty of the 
women — Neswah — Sheikh — Visit to the Fort— Trade — Dress 
and habits of the Natives. 

At 130, from an elevated ridge, I caught a 
glimpse of the mountains over Stir, bearing 
E. by \ S. Our course here has been W. by 
S., and from hence it was N.W. Small hills 
of limestone formation, of a pyramidal form 
and rugged outline, their blackened surface 
exhibiting no traces of bushes or desert shrubs, 
extend on either hand. The intermediate 
valleys and plains are sprinkled with grassy 
knolls, and towards sunset we again entered 
a woody tract. Shortly after dark we lost the 
path : the camels, immediately this falls out, 
discover it instinctively, and then seem to be 



VIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 105 

possessed with a spirit of devilry. They erect 
their tails, run here and there, and against 
each other ; and generally conclude, as they 
did with us this evening, by two or three 
scampering away and capsizing their baggage. 
After this I thought it better to halt, and our 
Bedowins having discovered a hollow, which 
they always select in preference to other spots, 
because sheltered from the wind and serving 
to conceal their fires, we collected our camels 
and unloaded them for the night. Fahrenheit's 
thermometer stood this evening at 56°, and 
we found a fire not only comfortable but ne- 
cessary. The Bedowins have a singular mode 
of sleeping ; they strip themselves of all their 
clothes, and having dug a hole in the sand, 
pile these, and whatever they can get in ad- 
dition, over them; the sword, shield, and 
matchlock are placed by their side, and so 
disposed as to be ready for immediate use. 

Although equally cool, the atmosphere is 
not so clear and pure as that which we have 
left. The air of Oman (I use this word in the 
restricted sense I have attached to it in the 
map) is considered to be proverbially unheal- 
thy in the cold season ; especially within the 



106 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

oases. Bedowins from the Desert rarely re- 
side there three or four days without being 
attacked with violent fevers, and my own suf- 
ferings subsequently, unfortunately verified 
the correctness of this opinion. The climate 
of Batna and Bedi'ah is said to be salubrious ; 
but in this respect Nejd is considered supe- 
rior to all Arabia. The approach of some 
Bedowins being this night discovered by 
the neighing of my horse, in an instant 
every individual was upon his feet with his 
matchlock ready. The party, which con- 
sisted of five or six, finding themselves dis- 
covered, were now stealing off, and I had some 
difficulty in preventing our party from firing 
on them. Having set a guard, we slept un- 
disturbed until the following morning. To 
pilfer some article from the baggage was the 
object our visitors had in view, but at daylight 
we discovered nothing to be missing. 

Tuesday, December 15th. At 7*45 we 
continued across the same woody track as 
before. The sumr trees (Acacia vera) here 
are of great size, and the gum exudes in 
considerable quantities. I was chatting with 
Hamed, who rode alongside of me, re- 



Villi] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 107 

specting his camels. He related many sin- 
gular cases of the attachment which the Be- 
dowins bear towards these useful animals. 
In order to draw further information from 
him I professed my incredulity on certain 
points which he had mentioned. A party at 
this moment happened to be approaching 
from an opposite direction, and Hamed, 
somewhat nettled, proposed to test the truth 
of his statements by what I should wit- 
ness. The parties approached : " May God 
Almighty break the leg of your camel !" 
bawled out Hamed to the foremost of the 
party, who was riding somewhat in advance 
of the others. Without a moment's hesitation 
the stranger threw himself from his beast, 
and advanced sword in hand on Hamed, who 
would probably have had but little reason to 
congratulate himself on his experiment, if 
several of our party had not thrown them- 
selves before him, and explained the story. 
But the Arab still appeared deeply offended, 
and replied to all that was brought forward 
in explanation by asking " Why he abused 
his camel, and in what manner it had harmed 
him?" The matter was adjusted by a few 



108 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

presents, and I passed on, determined in my 
own mind not to trust again to an Arab's 
delicacy in settling a question of this nature. 

At 9*45 we arrived at Wadi Ethelee, 
where there are some wells of good water. 
Antelopes, partridges, and other game are 
numerous. Here old Saaf and I were very 
successful, and when we left, the dogs had a 
famous course after an antelope, which they 
picked up in a run of ten minutes. At one 
hour we arrived at the S. E. extremity of the 
grove and town of Semmed, and at 1*30 
pitched our tent alongside a beautiful stream 
of running water, a few yards from the trees. 

Wednesday, \§th. Semmed is of greater 
extent than many of the other oases, but 
there are no more than four hundred inhabit- 
ants at present on the spot. This is the 
native city of my old guide and companion, 
Saaf, and I found, to my great regret, that he 
was to leave me here. In the evening I was 
joined, most unexpectedly, by Lieutenant 
Whitelock, who was travelling with leave of 
absence, in order to acquire a knowledge of 
Arabic. As it suited both our views, it was 
agreed that we should proceed together. He 



VIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 109 

has assumed the native dress, but I still re- 
tain that of England *. 

Thursday, December \lth. We visited the 
Sheikh's dwelling, on an invitation to break- 
fast. It was a large fort, very strongly built 
with the same material as the houses. The 
rooms are spacious and lofty, but destitute of 
any furniture. Suspended on pegs, protrud- 
ing about two feet from the wall, are the 
saddles, cloths, and trappings of their horses 
and camels. The ceilings are painted in 
various devices, but the floors are of mud, 
and only partially covered with mats. The 
windows, in place of the usual ornamental 
wood-work, are crossed by transversed iron 
bars; and at night, in order to protect the 
inmates from the keenness of the winds, they 
are wholly closed by wooden shutters. Lamps 
formed of shells, a species of murex, are sus- 
pended by lines from the ceiling, and the 
whole was essentially different from what I 
have seen in other parts of Arabia. Our 

* Lieutenant Whitelock's route from Maskat is laid down on 
the map. It led along a narrow road, through a wilderness of 
broken mountains. He passed a few spots where there were date 
plantations, but the country was generally barren, and destitute of 
water. 



110 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

meal, after the usual style, was sumptuous 
and plentiful; but so strictly do the Arabs 
regard the laws of hospitality, that it required 
much entreaty to induce our host, a man of 
high birth, to seat himself with us. This 
originates in a prevalent belief that if he 
partakes of the meal he will neither have 
leisure nor opportunity to look after his 
guests, and he, therefore, insisted upon wait- 
ing on us in the capacity of an attendant. It 
was not until I told him that we would not 
commence unless he did so, that he could be 
prevailed on to join in, and then we per- 
ceived he could play his part as well as the 
best of us. On returning to the tent I found, 
as usual, a great crowd collected there, but 
they were kept in tolerable order by a little 
urchin about twelve years of age, whose 
father, a man of great influence in these 
parts, had, a few years before, been killed by 
the Bedowins. He had taken complete pos- 
session of our tent, and allowed none of his 
countrymen to enter but with his permission. 
He carried a sword longer than himself, and 
also a stick, with which he occasionally laid 
about him, I was excessively amused at the 



VIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. Ill 

gravity and self-importance of this youngster, 
who appeared perfectly well acquainted with 
the numbers, resources, and distribution of 
the native tribes, and his conversation on 
these and other subjects was free and unem- 
barrassed, and, at the same time, highly en- 
tertaining. It may be observed, generally, of 
the Arabs, and particularly of the Bedowins, 
that their boys share the confidence and the 
councils of the men at a very early age ; and 
on several other occasions I have seen their 
youths exert their influence in a manner that 
to us would appear preposterous. But it is a 
part of their system of education to cease 
treating them as children at a very early 
period, and they acquire, therefore, the 
gravity and demeanour of men at an age 
when our youth are yet following frivolous 
pursuits, and being birched into propriety of 
conduct and manners. 

I amused the whole assembled party this 
evening with Brace's experiment of firing a 
candle through two parts of an inch deal 
plank. When I proposed it they declared 
the thing impossible, and in this opinion 
they were stanchly supported by our young 



112 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

friend ; but we may pardont heir unbelief, as 
well as surprise, after the feat was performed, 
when we reflect that it was not many years 
since in " all enlightened England " that the 
possibility of the act was very gravely ques- 
tioned, and Bruce's narration of a similar ex- 
ploit very charitably attributed to his " love 
of the marvellous." 

Saturday, 19th. We struck the tent, and, 
after I had obtained a latitude, left at one, 
p.m., accompanied by the Sheikh and a 
guard of about twenty men, mounted on 
asses. Continuing our course along the val- 
ley, in forty minutes we arrived at Omaseer, 
where there is a fort and a few houses. 

At three hours we came to a pass called 
Urif, which has a descent down a narrow ra- 
vine of about two hundred feet. The rock 
here contains an astonishing quantity of iron 
pyrites, the glistening of which is perceived 
from a considerable distance. 

At four hours we passed a town called Gaza, 
bearing S. S. W., and at 545 arrived at Kothra, 
where we halted. Two miles from this, in a 
S.S.E. direction, there are some copper mines, 
but our guides would not conduct us to them. 



VIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 113 

They are still worked, but the quantity of ore 
obtained is very small, and scarcely covers 
the expense. Kothra is a small hamlet with 
an abundance of water in its vicinity : the 
night was cloudy, with light drizzling rain ; 
but within our tent we passed the time very 
pleasantly, chatting with Sheikh Nasser and 
his Bedowins to a very late hour. 

Sunday, December 20th. Having taken leave 
of Sheikh Nasser, who is the most intelligent 
Arab I have yet met with, at 1T30 we con- 
tinued our journey, with a guard of about 
seventy men, for the road between this place 
and Neswah is said to be infested with rob- 
bers, who plunder small parties in open day. 
Our course was W. \ N., and we passed a 
great number of villages, which appear on 
our map. At 220, we halted 45 minutes at 
Okahil, in order to obtain a fresh guard ; the 
men collected for this purpose were appa- 
rently volunteers, who seemed to enjoy the 
fun a good deal, although in some places 
they proceeded with their matches lighted, 
and under every preparation for an attack. 
The robbers who frequent the Ja'ilan district 
arrive from the Western Desert in parties of 

VOL. I. I 



1 14 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

fifty to one hundred, being generally mounted 
on swift camels. No warning is of course 
given of their approach ; and after a foray 
they retreat with equal celerity. They often 
possess themselves of the African slaves be- 
longing to the town Arabs, which they bring 
up in the same habits as themselves, and not 
unfrequently marry their daughters to them. 
Life is seldom taken in these affrays ; though 
I saw a great number of people suffering from 
sword and gun-shot wounds; the latter, it 
occurs to me, are not unfrequently occasioned 
by their own or their friends' carelessness. 
Every body on a journey carries a match 
lighted, and no more care is taken of their 
matchlock then, than when unloaded ; so that, 
when these men clustered round upon our ap- 
proach to any suspicious spot, I always thought 
there was more reason to dread danger from 
my friends than foes. At 4*25 we arrived at 
Tulhat, where there are two small forts erected 
on the pinnacles of a hill rising over the town. 
The town itself is walled round ; the date 
groves in its vicinity are very extensive, and a 
noble stream of water passes through it. 
Hitherto I have avoided sleeping in these 



VIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 1 [& 

groves, but here we were compelled to do so, 
and the consequence was what I anticipated, 
two of my servants being next day attacked 
with severe fever. Fahrenheit's thermome- 
ter 58°. 

Monday, '21st. We started at ten, and at 
twelve, crossing a desert country, passed a 
town at the base of the Green Mountains, 
called Birket el Moge, bearing north, and dis- 
tant about eight miles. At 12 30, we arrived 
at Mayul, on the south side of which there 
are two round forts; and at 130 we entered 
the precincts of the town of Minna. 

Minna differs from the other towns in hav- 
ing its cultivation in the open fields. As we 
crossed these, with lofty almond, citron, and 
orange-trees, yielding a delicious fragrance on 
either hand, exclamations of astonishment and 
admiration burst from us. " Is this Arabia," 
we said; " this the country we have looked on 
heretofore as a desert?" Verdant fields of 
grain and sugar-cane stretching along for 
miles are before us ; streams of water flowing 
in all directions, intersect our path ; and the 
happy and contented appearance of the pea- 
sants, agreeably helps to fill up the smiling 

i 2 



116 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

picture ; the atmosphere was delightfully clear 
and pure; and, as we trotted joyously along, 
giving or returning the salutation of peace or 
welcome, I could almost fancy we had at last 
reached that " Araby the blessed," which I 
have been accustomed to regard as existing 
only in the fictions of our poets. 

Upon entering the town, I was met by some 
relations of Sayyid S'aid, who conducted me 
to an open spot, where we pitched our tent. 
These chiefs are at feud with the neighbour- 
ing tribe of Ghafari, who possess an extensive 
fort contiguous to the town, and do not ac- 
knowledge the authority of the Imam. 

The Ghafari are among the noblest of the 
tribes of Oman, and, with the Y'harabi, have 
at different periods respectively furnished an 
Imam. Their power is now limited to the 
possession of a few castles, from which they 
occasionally sally and annoy the surcounding 
country. The Sheikh of Minna informed me 
that, wearied with the constant broils which 
his unruly neighbours thrust on him, he, a 
short time before, had undermined their fort, 
which was but a few yards beyond the walls 
of his town, and that upon any return of dis- 



VIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 117 

turbance, he would destroy the whole nest of 
them. I should have been incredulous to the 
truth of a statement so entirely at variance 
with their usual mode of warfare, if, on con- 
dition that I would instruct them how to lay 
and fire the train, which they were afraid of 
doing themselves, he had not offered to con- 
duct me to the spot; but, of course, I de- 
clined any interference. 

Minna is an old town, said to have been 
erected at the period of Nushirvan's invasion ; 
but it bears, in common with the others, no 
indications of antiquity : its houses are lofty, 
but do not differ from those I have described 
at Semmed and Ibrah. There are two square 
towers, about one hundred and seventy feet 
in height, nearly in the centre of the town ; 
at their bases, the breadth of the wall is not 
more than two feet, and neither side exceeds 
in length eight yards. It is therefore aston- 
ishing, considering the rudeness of the ma- 
terials, (they have nothing but unhewn stones 
and a coarse, but apparently strong cement,) 
that, with proportions so meagre, they should 
have been able to carry them to the elevation 
they have. The guards, who are constantly 



118 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

on the look-out, ascend by means of a rude 
ladder, formed by placing bars of wood in a 
diagonal direction in one of the side angles, 
within the interior of the building. The 
country in every direction around this town 
is flat and even; and the commanding view 
they obtain from their summit enables them 
to perceive from a long distance the approach 
of an enemy. A telescope which I presented 
to the Sheikh was most thankfully received, 
and it promises to be of every service to 
them. 

The females here are equally bold, and 
more numerous than those of Ibrah. Yet, 
notwithstanding my tent was constantly 
crowded with them, and a temptation to 
pilfer must have been presented in a hun- 
dred seducing and facile forms, I did not 
miss the most trifling article. I hope their 
other virtues may be commensurate with 
their honesty. More frolicsome, laughter- 
loving dames I never beheld : they were 
never for an instant quiet, and, as for their 
chattering ! — he must be a bold man, and 
worthy of his destiny with such damsels, who, 
availing himself, in point of plurality, to the 



VIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 119 

full extent of Mohammed's permission, finds 
no reason to repent having done so. 

Tuesday 22nd. At 9*40 we left the skirts 
of the town, and, continuing north, over 
much cultivated ground, at length arrived at 
the base of a low ridge of hills, which forms 
the roots of the Jebel Akhdar range. At 
10-30 we continued rounding a cape of the 
hills, and at 1*30, arriving at the small fort 
and villages of Rhodda and Furk, we crossed 
over much marshy ground, filled with the 
high reeds of which the Arabian pens are 
made ; and at 3*30 reached Neswah. I pro- 
ceeded at once to the residence of the 
Sheikh, who possesses great influence in 
these parts. We found him seated before 
the castle gate, with an armed guard of about 
fifty men, who were standing on either side. 
The whole town had followed us thus far; 
but directly Sayyid S'aid's letter was pro- 
duced, and it was discovered who we were, 
they immediately dispersed, and the Sheikh 
expressed his regret that I had not sent him 
an intimation of my intended visit, in order 
that he might have met me on the road with 
a proper escort. We accompanied him to 



120 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

his audience-room, within the fort, which was 
lofty and well furnished. A house was soon 
procured, and here, for the first time since 
leaving Maskat, I enjoyed the luxury of be- 
ing alone, and remaining with our every mo- 
tion unwatched, for, at the different other 
towns on our route, the Sheikhs and prin- 
cipal men thought they honoured us in pro- 
portion to the time they passed in our society. 
During the evening, the Sheikh, accompa- 
nied by a few of his friends, paid us a visit. 
To my surprise the latter applied to us for 
brandy, and drank as much as was given 
them without scruple; nor did the Sheikh 
express any disapprobation of such an in- 
dulgence. I found they had been in the 
habit of procuring spirits from Maskat, 
where, though they are contraband, a con- 
siderable quantity is smuggled on shore from 
the Indian ships. When they first made 
their appearance there was a Moolah with 
them, but he took his departure very soon, in 
consequence of some fumes of tobacco pass- 
ing over his person. 

We spent the day in looking over the 
town and the surrounding gardens, and to- 



VIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 121 

wards evening went to visit the fort, which, 
in the estimation of all the surrounding coun- 
try, is impregnable. We were admitted, after 
much ceremony, by an iron door of great 
strength, and, ascending by a vaulted pas- 
sage, passed through six others equally mas- 
sive before we reached the summit. In order 
to render appearances more imposing, a 
janitor behind each inquired the purport of 
our visit; and, being told we were servants 
of the Sooltan, he removed several locked 
bars and chains, and we then passed on. 
The form of the fort is circular, its diameter 
being nearly one hundred yards, and to the 
height of about ninety feet it has been filled 
up by a solid mass of earth and stones : 
seven or eight wells have been bored through 
this, from several of which they obtain a 
plentiful supply of water, and those which 
are dry serve as magazines for their shot and 
ammunition. 

We found a few old guns here, one bearing 
the name of Imam Saaf, and another that of 
Kouli Khan, the Persian general who took 
Maskat A wall forty feet high surrounds 
the summit, making the whole height of the 



122 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

tower one hundred and fifty feet. It is cer- 
tainly a work of extraordinary labour, and, 
from its appearance, most probably of con- 
siderable antiquity ; but, on this point, I 
could gain no certain intelligence. The na- 
tives have not overrated its strength ; neither 
artillery nor shells could make much impres- 
sion : it would be too high to scale, even if 
the upper wall was breached ; and the only 
practicable way which I can conceive, would 
be either starving out the garrison, or mining 
it. Even the latter operation would be 
tedious. 

The dry bed of an extensive stream passes 
its base. Within this several houses have 
been erected, but, about three years ago, 
after some heavy falls of rain on the moun- 
tains, it filled its bed so suddenly that the 
whole of these, as well as a considerable part 
of the town, were washed away. It had not 
been known to rise to such a height for thirty 
years before. 

Neswah in extent resembles Minna, but 
the groves are more numerous. A great 
quantity of sugar-cane is grown, and its pro- 
duce manufactured here by a process similar 



VIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 123 

to that adopted in India, from whence they 
appear at a very late period to have borrowed 
it, as none was made at Maskat in 1760, 
when Niebuhr visited it. The best ulwah in 
Arabia is obtained at this town. They also 
make a few copper pots, and there are some 
workers in gold and silver, but not having 
many artisans of any description, all their 
other manufactured commodities arrive from 
Maskat. I must not, however, omit to men- 
tion that a considerable quantity of cloth and 
some good mats are fabricated from the 
rushes which grow on the borders of the 
streams. Preparing cotton in the yarn is 
the principal occupation of the females. In 
the cool season they may be perceived 
coming out from beneath the groves with 
their spindles after breakfast, to enjoy the 
warmth of the sun's rays. The men alone 
attend the looms. Besides mats the females 
manufacture some pretty baskets from the 
rushes. The former serve them to sleep on, 
and the latter they carry with them to 
market to deposit their purchases in. A 
great many camolines are fabricated here, 
and also brought from Nejd, The best, 



124 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

worn by the Sheikhs are of a light-brown, 
or cream colour, and sell for forty or fifty 
dollars ; the black camoline, and those 
striped in alternate vertical bars of brown 
and white, eight or ten dollars. The camo- 
line forms the most important article of their 
dress, and its quality denotes the condition 
and rank of the wearer. 



IX. J TRAVELS IN OMAN. 125 



CHAPTER IX. 

Revenue of Neswah — Currency — Author lodges in a Mosque— 
Tandf— Mountain Scenery — Perilous Descent — Seyk — Ami- 
able character of its Inhabitants— Romantic Landscape — Hodin 
— Pomegranate Wine — Shirazi — A Termagant — Bedowin 
Curiosity — Country of the Franks — Description of Shirazi — 
Excursions— The Almond — Figs, tyc. — Altitude of the Moun- 
tains — Wild Animals. 

Neswah is the only town in Oman from 
whence the Imam derives any revenue, and 
even here it is scarcely more than nominal, 
for not more than one thousand dollars a 
year are remitted to him. The following are 
the coins in current use amidst the towns in 
the interior. They were nearly all coined 
during the reign of Imam Saaf, and differ 
from those now in use at Maskat and on the 
sea coast. All have inscriptions, but nothing 
bearing a likeness to any object in animated 
nature. 



12(> 



TRAVELS IN OMAN. 



[eft! 



New coinage at Maskat. 
20 copper coins make a gazi. Spanish dollar 200 pice or gazi. 

20 gazi a mahmidi. A basi . . 40 „ „ 

1 5 mahraidi a dollar. Mahmidi . 20 „ „ 

Shuk or 5 „ „ 

The following were the principal articles 
exposed for sale, with their prices, both of 
which are nearly the same at all the other 
interior tow 7 ns : 



Rice 


12 


jice per lb. 


Wheat . 


• 12 


>» »> 


Barley . 


11 


»» >» 


Beans 


. 10 


>> >» 


Camel's flesh 


16 


»» It 


Beef 


. 20 


»» >> 


Mutton 


16 


»> >» 


Kid 


. 14 


»» J» 


Sweet oil 


50 


>» »» 


Ghee 


. 56 


„ „ 



Friday, December 25th. At 11 a.m. we left 
the town on a visit to the celebrated Jebel Akh- 
dar, or Green Mountains. Following the skirts 
of the hills to our left, we passed several 
steril plains which present nothing worthy 
of observation, and at three hours arrived 
at Tanuf, where the Sheikh resides, whose 
authority is paramount on the mountains. 
After halting we were at first lodged in the 
mosque, which, strange as it may appear, is 
generally used in Oman as a caravansarai ; 



IX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 127 

but fearing they might not relish our walking 
about with our shoes on, and it being rather 
too cool to go without them, I procured an- 
other house. Here I was soon joined by the 
Sheikh, who came with several others to dis- 
suade me from my intention of visiting the 
mountains. Most frightful pictures were 
drawn of the passes ; and I believe they 
thought that we, like many of their worthy 
countrymen, who pass their lives on the plains, 
had never visited a mountain district. The 
natives were also described as being little 
better than savages, and especially hostile to 
the visits of strangers ; but finding all their 
arguments ineffectual in changing our in- 
tention, they took their departure, evidently 
somewhat disappointed. 

Tanuf has two small forts, which serve to 
command the entrance of the valley; in other 
respects it is an insignificant hamlet, sur- 
rounded by considerable cultivation. 

Saturday, December 26th. In the early part 
of the day, every obstacle on the part of the 
Sheikh and the inhabitants was thrown in the 
way of our proceeding, and matters were at 
length only settled by my threatening to ride 



128 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

back to Neswah, and bring the Sheikh with 
me. After we had fairly started, a few dollars 
to those who were to accompany us acted 
like magic in removing objections, and at 
130 we commenced our ascent, about a mile 
from the village. The mountain asses with 
which we were furnished are of a large size ; 
and by constantly traversing these acclivities, 
acquire a firmness of step equal to that of 
mules. They proceed at a very quick pace 
for about sixty or eighty yards, and then halt 
to obtain breath and push on again. At this 
rate we ascended very rapidly along the 
southern ridge, in some places approaching 
to within a few paces of a ravine, which 
sunk down perpendicularly to a tremen- 
dous depth. On our left, in one part, where 
the dangers of a smooth narrow track were 
further increased by a slight slope towards 
the precipice, our off feet were swinging 
over it, and I then became conscious that 
the representations we had received from the 
natives below were not so much exaggerated 
as we were at first inclined to believe. At 
two hours we quitted the ridge to ascend the 
face of the mountain, and our track then lay 



IX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 120 

over tabular masses of limestone, until 3*30, 
when we halted in a narrow ravine near some 
wells of water. Hitherto the hills are wholly 
destitute of trees or herbage. Some scanty 
tufts appear at intervals, but the ravines by 
which they are intersected, notwithstanding 
their rocky bed, nourish several lofty tarfa or 
tamarisk trees (Hedysarum Alhaghi)*. 

The mountaineers who accompany us, 
appear neither social nor good-humoured. 
After dark I noticed five different fires ; the 
Bedowins of a single party always club 
around one. 

December 27th. At 530, the thermometer 
stood at 53°; but it was not until seven hours, 
when the sun had risen sufficiently high to 
warm them, that our guides would proceed. 
We then continued our ascent over the same 
country as yesterday. The bushes become 
more stunted and scarce as we proceed, and 
all other vegetation entirely disappears. At 
9*30 we arrived at the summit of the ridge, 
and from thence obtained a good view of the 
general outlines of the hills which form the 

* I could not learn that any manna is here procured from this 
tree, as in the vicinity of Mount Sinai. 

VOL. I. K 



130 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

most elevated portion of the range. They 
present without deviation the usual character 
of the limestone formation, ascending with a 
steep slope at an angle of about 30° with the 
horizon, and terminating to the southward in 
mural precipices of great depth. Along the 
face of one of these our route continued for 
some distance ; the path was a stair-like pro- 
jection, jutting out from the face of the cliff, 
and overhung by threatening masses of rock, 
while below, it sunk perpendicularly to the 
depth of 700 or 800 feet. As this path was 
too narrow to admit of the asses proceeding 
with their baggage in the usual manner, what 
could not be packed on their backs was 
carried by the drivers. 

We now commenced our descent by a path 
so steep and slippery, that we were compelled 
to take off our shoes ; yet the asses proceeded 
at a quick pace without making a single false 
step. Shortly before this, one of the men 
separated himself from the party, and called 
on me to follow him. I did so, and after 
scrambling for some distance down the pre- 
cipice, holding on by the branches and roots 
of the trees, we suddenly turned an angle of 



IX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 131 

the rock, and found that the track led along 
a narrow ledge for about two hundred yards. 
It appeared as smooth as glass, and in many 
places not more than a foot in breadth, with 
a steep precipice on either hand above and 
below. I know not whether he expected me to 
imitate his example in taking a shorter route, 
or if it was only to exhibit his own fearlessness 
and dexterity ; but directly we opened upon 
the scene, he stopped, and inquiring, with a 
smile, if I would follow further, tripped care- 
fully along, supporting himself by his hands 
in those places where the rock projected and 
compelled him to bend his body over the pre- 
cipice, and in the course of a few minutes, 
was safely seated at the opposite extremity, 
beckoning and calling on me to proceed. But 
it was a feat beyond my performance, and I 
returned to accompany the others by the safer 
path. 

At 2* 30 we passed some straggling hamlets, 
of which the huts were constructed of loose 
stones, and at 3, arrived at the valley and 
town of Seyk. Hitherto since leaving Ta- 
nuf, we had not met with any individual ; 
but the inhabitants now crowded out in great 

k 2 



132 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

numbers to welcome us as we passed along. 
Several entreated us to remain for the night at 
their village ; but I was anxious to pass on to 
Shirazi, which is described as being the most 
extensive and plentiful of all the valleys. Our 
reception there, however, led me subsequently 
to regret that I did not take advantage of the 
kind offer of these villagers ; for a wilder, more 
romantic, or more singular spot than was now 
before us, can scarcely be imagined. By 
means of steps we descended the steep side 
of a narrow glen, about four hundred feet in 
depth, passing in our progress several houses 
perched on crags or other acclivities, their 
walls built up in some places so as to appear 
but a continuation of the precipice. These 
small, snug, compact-looking dwellings have 
been erected by the natives one above the 
other, so that their appearance from the 
bottom of the glen, hanging as it were in mid 
air, affords to the spectator a most novel and 
interesting picture. Here we found, amidst a 
great variety of fruits and trees, pomegranates, 
citrons, almonds, nutmegs, and walnuts, with 
coffee bushes and vines. In the summer, 
these together, must yield a delicious fra- 



IX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 133 

grance, and produce a picturesque, verdant, 
and beautiful landscape. It was now, how- 
ever, winter, and the whole were denuded of 
their leaves, and had a cheerless appearance. 
Water flows in many places from the upper 
part of the hills, and is received at the lower 
in small reservoirs, from whence it is dis- 
tributed over all the face of the country. It 
is however so cold, that although very thirsty 
from the length of our walk, we were not able 
to partake of more than a sparing draught. 
From the narrowness of this glen and the 
steepness of its sides, only the lower part of it 
receives the warmth of the sun's rays but for 
a short period during the day ; and even at 
the time of our arrival, we found it so chilly 
that, after a short halt, we were very happy 
to continue our journey. Ascending there- 
fore on the opposite side of the valley also 
by steps, and passing over much rugged and 
uneven ground, we crossed a level tract of 
country, overgrown with brambles and thistles, 
and at 4*30 arrived at a small town called 
Hodin, where we found the cultivation on the 
open plains. The gardens and fields of grain 
in these spots, present a strong and pleasing 



134 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

contrast to the bleak and barren appearance 
of the general surface of the range. Water 
seems plentiful ; and some of the fruit-trees 
are very large. The natives make incisions in 
several of the pomegranate fruit, which cluster 
together on the same branch, and place under 
them large calabashes, into which the juice 
for some time continues to flow. It is after- 
wards mixed with that of the grape, for 
making wine. 

After descending another pass of about 
seven hundred feet, we arrived at a third 
town called Shirazi. But the ground in its 
neighbourhood was so uneven and rugged, 
that we found no place where our small tent 
could be pitched ; and as the nights at this 
elevation are excessively cold, I was very 
desirous to obtain the shelter of a house. 
After being led from one to the other, the in- 
mates of all refusing to admit us, on the plea 
of having no room, we were at length shown 
into a low, confined, filthy apartment, and our 
baggage lodged with us. We had not been 
seated here very long, before an old woman 
made her appearance with a flock of sheep 
and goats, to whose tenement we now dis- 



IX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 135 

covered that the inhabitants, from a desire 
of amusing themselves with the wrath of its 
irascible owner, had conducted us. Nor 
were they disappointed ; for the old lady no 
sooner caught a glimpse of the intruders than 
she raised such an outrageous clamour, that 
we were but too happy to effect a safe retreat. 
Although completely fagged (for we had been 
walking nearly the whole of the day), and 
somewhat displeased at our unceremonious 
ejection, still we had no sooner seated ourselves 
beneath a rock, which sheltered us in a mea- 
sure from the keenness of the wind, and had 
lighted a good fire to cook our evening meal, 
than the whole affair appeared so amusing 
that we indulged a hearty laugh. Not so the 
Arab who accompanied us as a guide ; with 
our situation it w r as very evident he had mar- 
vellous little sympathy, notwithstanding his 
professions to the contrary. But that a true 
believer, and a Sheikh of fifty followers, 
should meet w 7 ith so little consideration and 
hospitality, was beyond endurance ; and dire 
and manifold, as he sat shivering in the cold, 
were the imprecations which he heaped on 
the heads of the " wine-bibbing Kafers." 



136 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH, 

How long he amused himself in this way, 
I know not; for after collecting all the 
clothes we had with as, and selecting the 
softest piece of ground we could discover, 
we were soon asleep. 

Early this morning, the natives assembled 
to inquire how we had passed the night, and 
finding we made no complaint either of our 
lodgings or the keenness of the air, they ap- 
plied to Ali for information, as to who we 
were, and from what country we came ; but he 
was indignantly silent. It was evident that 
they expected we should suffer in an equal 
degree with those of the low lands who had 
visited them ; their surprise, therefore, was 
very great when they next applied to my 
servant, a shrewd fellow, who spoke Arabic 
with considerable fluency, and learnt that we 
came from a climate far colder than their 
own ; " where, instead of having ice and snow 
but a very few days in the year, as you have 
here, it is found for six months together." 
After listening to this explanation they went 
away for a short time, and prepared a small 
shed, which had formerly been used as a cow- 
house, for our reception ; thither we were 



IX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 137 

conducted, and they then supplied us with a 
hearty meal of dates, milk, and dried fruits. 

Shirazi contains about two hundred small 
houses, built around the commencement or 
head of a valley, which extends thence in a 
south south-east direction to the plains below. 
They are small, square, solid-looking edifices, 
and built expressly to withstand the showers 
and tempests which in those regions occa- 
sionally sweep over them. Narrow loopholes 
in the walls serve as windows, and the door 
also is very diminutive. None of these edi- 
fices have more than one story ; and although 
for warmth and culinary purposes they are 
compelled constantly to have a fire within 
them, there is no chimney, nor any outlet for 
the smoke except by the door or window. 
The inconvenience is not however so great as 
might be imagined, since they manufacture 
large quantities of charcoal, which is most 
commonly used, together with a kind of peat, 
procured from some morasses in the lower 
part of the valleys. Whether it is owing to 
any peculiarity in their mode of preparing 
the former, I know not, but I could never 
learn that any accidents arise from its use. 



138 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

although the rooms in which it is constantly 
burnt are low and confined, and the doors 
and windows all closed at night. 

The subsequent three days were passed by 
us in traversing the country in various direc- 
tions, and I shall now give the result of our 
observations on the figure and general pro- 
ductions of the range. The Jebel Akhdar 
occupy from east to west, which is their 
greatest length, a distance of thirty miles. 
At right angles to this they are intersected 
by narrow deep valleys, along which, during 
the rainy season, on either side, the torrents 
descend, and lose themselves, either in the 
sandy soil which crosses the plains, or pour 
their waters into the ocean. The maximum 
breadth of the chain is fourteen miles, and 
the northern and southern declivities are very 
rapid. Taken generally, it will be seen by 
my narrative of our route, that the range by 
no means deserves the appellation it has re- 
ceived, " Green," for a great proportion of its 
surface is bare limestone rock, which pre- 
sents in some places naked tabular masses, 
and in others, the shallow, earthy deposit 
lodged in the hollows is as poor as the worst 



IX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 139 

part of the plains ; but the valleys with seve- 
ral hollows are extensively cultivated, and 
supply such an abundance of fruit, &c, that 
many writers have considered them as com- 
mon to the whole range, and hence is derived 
its present appellation. The most important of 
these productions are the vines, which extend 
along the valley for miles. They are chiefly 
grown on terraced grounds, and entwine 
themselves around poles about six feet in 
height. They are abundantly watered by 
artificial rills, and the soil appears rich and 
fertile. Their fruit is of several kinds ; wine 
being made principally from the white, while 
the large black grape is used for drying into 
raisins. 

The Arabs consider the almond-tree to be 
a native of Oman. It attains a greater size 
here than in the plains below, and some were 
shown me from thirty to forty feet in height. 
We found both the sweet and bitter kinds ; 
and while the latter are considered very ap- 
petising, the former enter largely into the 
composition of all their made dishes, whether 
of grain, sweetmeats, or animal food. They 
have also walnuts, figs, and nutmegs. The 



140 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

last are smaller than those brought from the 
Eastern Islands, but in richness of flavour, 
are fully equal to them. The figs (Ficus 
Carica of Linnaeus) taste sweet and plea- 
sant, but are very small, being inferior both 
in size and flavour to those brought from 
Turkey. They are dried and sold in large 
quantities in all the towns. A small quan- 
tity of coffee is grown ; but owing, in all pro- 
bability, to the little care bestowed on its 
culture, it is considered to be of inferior qua- 
lity to that brought from Yemen. In addi- 
tion to these, all the fruits and grain common 
to the plains below, are produced in large 
quantities. Maskat and other ports on 
the sea-coast of Oman, together with Ras-el- 
Khaimah, Sharga, and many others on the 
southern shores of the Persian Gulf, receive 
their supplies from this range. 

By a tried thermometer, I found that water 
boiled at Shirazi at 200f°, which gives an 
altitude of about six thousand one hundred 
and eighty-seven feet. This I ascertained 
by several other observations to be from 
eight hundred to one thousand feet below the 
level of the summit of the greater part of the 



IX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 141 

chain. After rain at this season, they have 
not unfrequently ice and snow, but the latter 
rarely remains on the ground longer than a 
few hours. As far as inquiries enabled me 
to judge, the climate in the summer season 
must be very temperate, the natives say, not 
warmer than in the plains below ; and at pre- 
sent, the hot and parching winds, which are 
there of such frequent occurrence, seem 
wholly unknown here. I could not, there- 
fore, but conclude this must be a delightful 
residence when everything was in bloom. 
Water, which gushes from numerous springs, 
never fails them. At Shirazi they have a 
copious stream, which, after being led into a 
deep and capacious reservoir, in sufficient 
quantities to irrigate the whole of the culti- 
vated part of the valley, flows down in a yet 
considerable body, and supplies the small vil- 
lage of Birket el Moge at its extremity. 

In some of the valleys on the south-east 
side of the range, where brambles and dense 
thickets are very numerous, wild boars, 
foxes, and hyenas are said to abound. The 
two latter we saw, but were never sufficiently 
fortunate to obtain a glimpse of the former. 



142 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 



CHAPTER X. 

The Beni Riydm — Use of Wine — Description — Arms— Manners 
— Author's disappointment — Women— Return to Seswah — De- 
sertion of the Guides — Ruined Town — Mountain Pass — Mag- 
nificent Precipice — Perilous Descent — Anecdote — Geological 
Structure — Birket el Moge — Salubrious Climate — Bedowin 
Chief— Anecdote — Love of the Desert — Cheerful temperament 
of the Bedowin— Robber Hordes — Domestic Manners and Cus- 
toms—Contradictions of Character — Games — Talismans — Ne- 
cromancy — Story-tellers. 

The Beni Riyam, who inhabit this range of 
mountains, occupied the principal share of 
my attention during our stay. I think there 
is every reason to believe their own assertion 
that they have never known a master, and, 
as they never venture below but in small 
parties, for the purpose of disposing of their 
various articles of merchandise, and do not 
proceed beyond the foot of the mountains, 
where regular markets are established, they 
may be still regarded as an isolated race, re- 



X.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 143 

moved from, and unconnected with, the seve- 
ral tribes in the plains below. The steep, 
rugged, and dangerous nature of their passes, 
which frequently lead through defiles, where 
a few resolute men might make the way good 
against a thousand, and also the strong po- 
sitions which they have chosen for the erec- 
tion of their villages, are alone sufficient to 
secure their independence. 

Their number does not amount to more 
than a thousand souls, and a consciousness 
of this numerical weakness has made them 
aware that a strong bond of union is ne- 
cessary to their preservation. They boast, 
therefore, that, while the low country has, at 
different periods, suffered from foreign inva- 
sion, or been involved in the anarchv and 
confusion consequent to intestine broils, they 
have cultivated their vines and grain in 
peace, without fear or interruption ; and, 
although they bear the reputation of being 
affluent, yet the Imams have never been able 
to exact a duty from them. In their persons, 
although more athletic and robust than their 
neighbours of the plains, they have not the 
usual healthy and hardy look of moun- 



J44 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

taineers, but, on the contrary, their faces 
are wrinkled and haggard, and appear as if 
suffering from premature decay. I have 
little doubt but this is owing to an immo- 
derate use of wine, which they distil from 
their grapes in large quantities, and partake 
of openly and freely at their several meals. 
They defend the practice by asserting that 
the cold renders it necessary. 

Their wine, in flavour and appearance, 
bears a close resemblance to that brought 
from Shiraz. Large quantities are taken in 
skins to the surrounding countries and to the 
sea-coast, and is there sold publicly. In the 
winter season the men leave the culture of 
their vines to the females, and, having no- 
thing to do themselves, pass the time within 
their houses, until the sun is sufficiently high 
to warm them, and then they crawl forth and 
bask in it. While amidst their mountains, 
few go armed with more than the common 
jambeer or dagger, which also serves them on 
many occasions as a knife ; but those who 
resort with their fruit, &c, to the plains be- 
low, carry with them their matchlock and 
sword, and that they well understand their 



X.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 145 

use, is but too frequently demonstrated in 
their brawls with their Arab customers, by 
whom they are considered an irascible, sloth- 
ful, and immoral race. 

" They neglect their prayers, break the 
fast of the Ramadan, and openly indulge in 
the forbidden pleasures of wine," was my 
friend, the Sheikh's, summary of their cha- 
racter. 

Wanting, at least in their estimation, the 
Bedowin virtues of frankness and hospitality, 
which at once convert the person they meet 
with into an open foe or a cherished guest, 
they have invested the inhabitants of Jebel 
Akhdar with the heaviest charge which can 
be brought against them, that of being nig- 
gard and sullen in the exercise of their hos- 
pitality : certainly what came under my ob- 
servation during our short stay among them, 
produces little which could be advanced in 
contradiction of it. There was none of that 
freshness and vivacity which we usually 
meet with amongst mountaineers. Their man- 
ners, indeed, are far more rude than those of 
the wild tribes who inhabit the Desert below. 
They displayed no feeling of curiosity, nor 

VOL. I. L 



140 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

did they seek either to amuse, or evince any 
desire to be amused. I had, from the very 
first moment that these mountains were men- 
tioned to me, permitted my imagination to 
dwell with delight on the rich treat which I 
anticipated their investigation would afford ; 
I had, with a too simple belief in the ex- 
aggerated tales of the Arabs, pictured to my- 
self a range of verdant hills, clothed with the 
richest vegetation, crowned with lofty forests, 
and peopled by a simple and interesting- 
race, whose habits, usages, and condition 
would present an ample field of inquiry : the 
result of such expectations are before the 
reader. 

Their women go unveiled, and the men 
appear by no means jealous. Whenever we 
fell in with them, they were either employed 
tending their vines, or in other occupations 
connected with husbandry, or were carrying 
water on their heads from the fountain, in 
the same manner, and in vessels similar to 
those used in India. Constant exercise in 
the open air gives an elasticity and freedom 
to their gait, as well as a ruddiness and 
clearness of complexion which we do not 



X.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 147 

meet with in the females below : these, com- 
bined with a disposition equally lively, and a 
form, although somewhat taller, yet possess- 
ing outlines by no means inferior, render 
them a far more interesting subject for con- 
sideration than their worthy helpmates. I 
have more than once regretted when in con- 
versation with them, that, with such faces 
and forms, fate had not assigned them a less 
rude lot. Yet are they, in common with 
those who, from local and other causes, rank 
lower in the scale of human condition, appa- 
rently content with the station which has 
been assigned them, and we may question if 
any change would increase the sum of their 
general happiness. 

Thursday, December Slst. It now became 
necessary for us to return to Neswah, where 
I expected letters connected with my further 
progress were awaiting me, but an unforeseen 
obstacle presented itself, which at first gave 
me no small trouble. The men we brought 
from Tarnuf complained much of the cold, 
and had been desirous to return immediately 
after our arrival at Shirazi, and in this feel- 
ing they were supported and encouraged by 

l2 



148 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [ell. 

our Arab guide. Yesterday morning they 
grew more than usually importunate, but find- 
ing I paid little attention, they took advan- 
tage of our absence from the house, and threw 
everything out of the bags in which our bag- 
gage had been placed, breaking several of the 
articles, and then took their departure. We 
were consequently, on our return, left without 
any means of quitting, and being aware of 
the share the villagers had in the fracas, I 
was anxious to leave before they should be 
excited to any further mischief. I accordingly 
went this morning to the Sheikh, who at first 
evinced no inclination to assist us, but after 
two hours* talking, (for the Arabs never per- 
form the most trifling undertaking or engage- 
ment without an enormous expenditure of 
words,) he agreed, upon the promise of a pre- 
sent, not only to furnish us with asses, but also 
to accompany us himself to Birket el Moge. 
All was prepared by 8*30, and we then com- 
menced our descent to Neswah by another 
road, called Durbh Moidien : its general di- 
rection being s. 13° e. it is unnecessary for me 
to detail the windings of our route. 

Before us, there rose from the centre of the 



X.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 140 

valley a hill of a pyramidal form, on whose 
summit stood a ruined tower of large dimen- 
sions and massive architecture. This build- 
ing is said, in latter years, to have served 
the purpose of a mosque ; the date of its 
erection I could not ascertain, but tradition 
asserts that it was also frequented as a place 
of worship by their Pagan ancestors. How- 
ever, if it be true that such, in either instance, 
was the purport to which it was applied, the 
mountaineers, considering the steepness and 
ruggedness of the path to the summit, must 
have been actuated by a more fervent spirit 
of religious zeal than they possess at present, 
if they ever troubled themselves with a single, 
instead of the requisite five daily visits to it. 

Following the direction of the western brow 
of the valley, though sometimes this path led 
over several hills and much uneven ground to 
a considerable distance beyond it, and at others 
approached close to its verge, at 10*30 we ar- 
rived at the summit of a pass, and from thence 
obtained a full view of the wild and savage 
glen beneath. Vines and terraced grounds 
extended for three or four miles from Shirazi, 
and below that, patches of cultivated ground 



150 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

occur at intervals throughout its whole extent. 
There was also a chain of capacious pools of 
water, and the lively green of one, joined to 
the glistening of the other, continued to form a 
striking contrast with the sombre and shadowy 
line of the magnificent wall or sheet of rock, 
which rose perpendicularly on either hand, 
It took us until twelve, quick travelling, to 
reach the bottom of this pass. No considera- 
tion would have induced me to ride down, and 
I should have thought no human being in his 
senses would have attempted it ; but our old 
guide, the Sheikh, after accomplishing half 
the descent, was so fagged that, notwithstand- 
ing every remonstrance of ours, he mounted 
his ass, and thus safely accomplished the 
remainder of the pass. " Friend Seyyid," ob- 
served I, " if you make the attempt you will 
most assuredly break your neck." " It may 
be so," he replied, " but Allah Akbar (God is 
great), and I am tired." 

The steps, formed of unhewn stones, about 
three feet in width, are ranged along a sloping 
ledge, jutting out from the face of an almost 
vertical precipice ; and in those places where 
its width w T as found insufficient, the rock 



X.J TKAVELS IN OMAN. 151 

has been scarped away. Considering these, 
together with many other difficulties which 
have been overcome with equal perseverance, 
it is impossible but to conclude that the mind 
which could have conceived and executed a 
work of such enormous labour, must, in a 
country like Arabia, where public works of 
any magnitude are almost unknown, have 
been of no common order. We are now on 
our descent through Wadi Moidien, which 
preserving the same name, extends from 
Shirazi to Birket el Moge. In no part we 
are traversing does its breadth exceed one 
hundred paces ; and the hills, which rise per- 
pendicularly in some places, were overhung 
to the height of from 2000 to 3000 feet. It 
consequently resembles an enormous clift, 
and we have a good opportunity of investi- 
gating the geological structure of the range. 
The whole appears to consist of — 1. Alpine 
limestone ; 2. Old red sandstone, with an oc- 
casional micacious vein ; 3. Alternately mica 
slate and granite. 

Large masses have been splintered from 
the sides of these, blocking tip the bed of the 
valley, and compelling us to wind our way 



152 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

over or between them. A large stream of 
water traverses the centre ; small hamlets, 
date groves, and patches of cultivated ground 
occur occasionally, until we arrived, at five 
hours, at the village of Birket el Moge, situ- 
ated at the gorge of the pass, where it opens 
out into the plain. 

As we here partook of our evening meal, 
we could not but congratulate ourselves upon 
our return from a journey, which the reite- 
rated assurance of the Arabs to whom we 
mentioned it, would have led us to believe 
could only be performed with much labour 
and considerable peril. Birka, or Birket el 
Moge, has a fort, with a very capacious and 
good-looking castle, belonging to the Sheikh 
of Suik, within its walls. Around these are 
several large groves and plantations ; the 
plantain trees are numerous, and hence its 
name. A very large rivulet, or feletch, fur- 
nishes an ample supply of water, and from its 
situation, Birket enjoys a delightfully cool 
atmosphere from the Jebel Akhdar, and bears 
the reputation of being very salubrious. 

January 1st. Having remunerated the 
Sheikh with the promised present, at which 



X.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 153 

he was well pleased, we procured a fresh 
supply of asses, and set out for Neswah. 
Shortly after leaving, we were met by the 
Sheikh of that place, with a guard of fifty 
men, mounted on camels. Although some- 
what more haughty in his manners to those 
around him, and more showy than other 
chiefs in his dress, while within the town, yet 
here, in common with his followers, he had 
nothing more than a plain turban on his head, 
and a cloth around his waist : the reason he 
gave for this, when I inquired of him, was, 
that if an individual were to dress himself out 
more conspicuously than the rest, he would at 
once be selected by the Bedowin marksmen 
as the leader, and would most probably be 
the first to fall. This was very plausible; 
but I am induced to refer the custom of strip- 
ping themselves when on the Desert to an- 
other cause. Those cooped up in the towns 
and oases, which are interspersed throughout 
the Desert, lose, in consequence of their fre- 
quent journey ings from one to the other, but 
little of a Bedowin's real attachment for a 
residence on, or a journey across it, and they 
appear beyond measure delighted when any 



154 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH 

event renders it necessary for them to do so. 
Their actions, as I have often witnessed on 
these occasions, are all directed to assimilat- 
ing their party as nearly as possible in dress 
and manners to the Bedowins. The change 
in point of appearance, from the staid, sober 
demeanour of a resident Arab, to all the 
buoyancy, laughter, and wild freaks of the 
former, is most amusing. 

Seeing our party so well mounted, I could 
not help inquiring of the Sheikh his reason 
for not adopting some active measures for 
putting down the robber hordes which infest 
this district. " Our camels are, as you ob- 
serve, very fine animals," said Abin Arish, 
" and I have no reason to doubt the courage 
of my followers ; but the robbers approach in 
parties of thirty or forty, bringing with them 
several led camels, on which, frequently be- 
fore any force can be raised to oppose them, 
the plunder is placed, and they are away in 
full retreat to their Desert. Thither, from our 
total unacquaintance with their haunts, we 
are unable to follow, and moreover, whenever 
we do give chase, it is soon found that our 
camels are no match in point of fleetness 



X.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 155 

to theirs ; but with a troop of thirty horse, I 
would engage in six months to insure the 
safe passage of gold through any part of the 
adjoining country." 

During my progress in this country, with a 
view to initiate myself into their manners and 
domestic life, I mixed much with the Bedow- 
ins, frequently living and sleeping in their 
huts and tents. On all occasions I was re* 
ceived with kindness, and often with a degree 
of hospitality above, rather than below, the 
means of those who were called upon to ex- 
ercise it. The medical character which I as- 
sumed proved then of much service to me, 
although, it must be acknowledged, that I was 
often teased for assistance where it was not 
required, or where it was wholly unavailing. 
The Arabs have singular ideas with respect 
to medicine, — medicine, in its most compre- 
hensive sense, it certainly is to them, — since 
they look for no peculiar results from the use 
of one kind more than another, but will swal- 
low with avidity all which is given them under 
that denomination. One morning I had thrown 
without the door, as wholly useless, some da- 
maged papers of magnesia and rhubarb ; but 



156 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

the Arabs, who had seen me remove them 
from the small case I always carried with me, 
formed a different opinion, and, after an 
eager scramble, in which some of their fe- 
males joined, they were collected and 
greedily devoured. In addition to human, I 
had not unfrequently other patients to pre- 
scribe for — horses, camels, asses, and some- 
times cats. It is a mistake which Euro- 
peans, who have adopted this character, 
have fallen into, not to do so, for an Arab 
will never understand why, when you cheer- 
fully attend a slave, whose loss he can sup- 
ply for thirty or forty dollars, you should not 
do so to animals which are of greater value 
to them. It is all well enough with Euro- 
pean ideas, to speak of the superiority of the 
human race over the brute species ; but an 
Asiatic will not understand why, if you 
oblige him in one point, you should not do 
so in the other. My practice proved very ex- 
tensive, and, if not travelling, the early part 
of the day was thus occupied. I always car- 
ried with me a large quantity of pills made of 
ambergris mixed with opium, and found, on 
account of the stimulating property which 



X.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 157 

the former is supposed to possess, that I 
could not, to an Arab, make a more accept- 
able present. Towards noon I walked out 
alone with my gun, when I made my notes, 
or otherwise, and was accompanied by a group 
of Bedowin boys, who collected flowers and 
Desert shrubs : — to avoid suspicion, I ascribed 
medicinal properties to what they brought, — 
and the Arabs were then in no manner sur- 
prised at my solicitude for them. 

All orientals are early risers : the Arabs go 
to bed about ten, and their first sleep is over 
shortly after midnight. The poorer classes 
repose upon mats on the ground : those in 
better condition on rude bedsteads with four 
legs, having the frame crossed by ropes. Al- 
though I have known a Bedowin on a Desert 
journey travel three days and as many nights 
without any other slumber than that ob- 
tained on his camel, yet within a town or en- 
campment they will sleep during the greater 
part of the day, without finding it any in- 
terruption to their usual repose at night, and 
they often expressed surprise that I did not 
thus indulge. As soon as it is light, an Arab 
commences his religious exercise by saying, 



158 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

"La ilia illella, Mahomuda rusoul Allah"*; 
he then awakens those around him (for in 
the Desert, as on board ship, they usually 
sleep in groups), and invites them to join in 
his prayers, which he most commonly begins 
with a verse from the Koran, intimating that 
prayer should be preferred to sleep. Their 
first repast, called " el moza," is taken shortly 
afterwards. If with a Sheikh, our breakfast 
consisted of coffee, boiled rice, fish, and ve- 
getables: but the poorer classes are content 
with dates and coarse bread. The former have 
also a mid-day meal, called "el sady," con- 
sisting of meat dressed in a variety of ways, 
and fruit: but the principal meal, with all 
classes, is that at sunset, called "asshar," with 
those who can afford it. Our dinner consisted 
of a lamb or sheep boiled whole, and stuffed 
with rice and spices, dishes full of ribs of 
mutton, soups and curries. Neither chairs 
nor tables are in request here; the several 
articles being brought in, and placed on cir- 
cular mats upon the floor. Around these the 
company seat themselves cross-legged, with- 
out regard to any rules of precedence : some 

* " No God but the God ; and Mohammed is his Prophet. ' 



X.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 1 ")!> 

one is invited to begin ; then, after " Bis- 
millahV which is echoed by all present, a 
dozen hands are thrust at once into the dish. 
No beverage is called for during the meal, 
and a single draught of water concludes it : 
then, "Al hum'd Allah I," the guests rise, 
and the remains of the meal are abandoned to 
the servants and slaves. 

The character of the Bedowin presents 
some singular contradictions. With a soul 
capable of the greatest exertions, he is natu- 
rally indolent. He will remain within his 
encampment for weeks, eating, drinking 
coffee, and smoking his nargyl, and then 
mount his camel, and away off to the Desert, 
on a journey of two or three hundred miles: 
whatever there may be his fatigues or priva- 
tions, not a murmur escapes his lips. In ex- 
cuse for their slothful habits at other periods, 
it may, however, be observed that the Koran 
prohibits all games of chance, and that their 
own rude and simple manners completely 
relieve them from the artificial pleasures and 
cares of more civilized life. In the account 
of my stay with the Beni-AbiVAli Bedowins, 

* a In the name of God." f " Praise be to God." 



160 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

I have given a description of their war-dance, 
which is graceful and impressive ; but their 
other amusements are trifling, and utterly at 
variance with the usual gravity of their de- 
portment. One is the game of blind man's 
buff, played by children in England : in an- 
other they conceal a ring, or some other or- 
nament, under one of several inverted cups, 
and in discovering that, consists the art of 
the game. Professed story-tellers were also 
in great request, and I have often felt a high 
degree of interest in witnessing the effect of 
their tales on the listeners. They have little 
action, are seldom over-loud or vehement, 
but a choice selection of words, which flow 
apparently without effort, a peculiar, ener- 
getic, and even graceful delivery, and an in- 
vention or memory which appears never to 
flag, produce effects of which the most ac- 
complished orator would feel proud : every 
feeling which he could hope for or desire was 
exhibited on these occasions. 

In the absence of amusements of a higher 
interest than these, without arts or literature, 
and debarred, by the nature of their govern- 
ment and country, from any opportunity of 



X.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 161 

mental improvement, it is not surprising that 
the same species of credulity and supersti- 
tion, but a few centuries ago so universal 
in Europe, should still hold its ground in 
Arabia. With many, a firm belief exists as 
to the power of enchanters and sorcerers ; 
and their diabolical agency is thought to be 
principally exercised in transforming men 
into goats. It is even pretended that there 
are marks by which such unfortunates may 
be recognised ; and a Bedowin, about to be- 
come a purchaser of a goat, may often be 
observed looking with much gravity and 
earnestness for them. I could never, however, 
prevail on them to explain of what nature 
they were. Many other tales of a similar 
nature were related to me, but, as they pos- 
sess no higher interest, I forbear from nar- 
rating them. A talismanic power is also at- 
tributed to certain words, and, as with other 
Mohammedans, amulets and charms are worn, 
but their use is not so general as with the 
town Arabs. 



VOL. I. M 



l(i*2 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH 



CHAPTER XL 

Expectations of reaching the Wahhdbi Capital— Unexpected 
obstacles — Lieutenant Whitelock— British Agent at Maskat — 
Refusal to honour the Author's Bills — Munificence of the 
Imam — Dangerous attack of Sickness — Compelled to return 
to the Sea-coast — Maty — Date Groves — Obstinacy of the 
Guides — Affecting incident— Temay el — Wddi Khor—Heat — 
Fortitude of the Bedowins — Wahhdbi irruption into Oman — 
Presents of Persian Fruit — Grateful recollection of the Imams 
kindness. 

From what I had hitherto seen of the coun- 
try, and gathered from several Arabs and 
Sheikhs who had repeatedly traversed the 
road, I saw no reason to doubt but that I 
should be able, after completing the investi- 
gation of the northern portion of Oman, to 
proceed on to Der'ayyah, the Wahhabi capi- 
tal ; and it was therefore arranged that, 
while I occupied myself with filling up the 
map of my route from Sur, Lieutenant 
Whitelock should proceed to Maskat, in 



XI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 103 

order to procure the necessary funds for our 
journey, as well as to seek some influential 
individual to accompany us, for which pur- 
pose he left early in the morning of the 3rd 
of January. From this period until the 12th 
of the same month I was fully occupied \iith 
the map, and in making excursions into the 
surrounding country. On my return from one 
of these on the morning of the 8th, I found 
unexpected intelligence awaiting me. 

In my application to government for leave 
to undertake my present journey, I had re- 
quested that the British agent at Maskat, 
Ruben ben Asian, a Jew, should be directed to 
advance me such sums as I might, from time 
to time, find it necessary to draw on him ; but, 
by some inadvertence, consequent to a press 
of business when my letter passed Council, no 
reply was made to that particular paragraph ; 
but, upon referring to the Secretary's office, 
it was thought that, as I was furnished 
with a certificate, stating I was travelling 
under the direction of the British govern- 
ment, and requiring every assistance to be 
rendered to me, by those who were desirous 
of maintaining its friendship, that it was of 

m 2 



164 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [ CH - 

little moment, and I had already drawn, 
when in Maskat, a considerable sum from 
the agent. My surprise was, therefore, 
very great to learn from Whitelock this 
morning that he had refused to honour my 
bills, unless they previously obtained the 
sanction of Acting Commander J. B. Aines, 
in charge of the Hon. Company's brig Pali- 
nurus, then lying in the harbour, who, I had 
been given to understand in Bombay, was 
also instructed to afford me every possible 
assistance, but who, from motives to me in- 
explicable, did not, in this case, think proper 
to concur. 

The several other merchants of Maskat, 
instigated, as I have reason to believe, by the 
former of these gentlemen, also declined to 
supply me with money. In this unpleasing 
and unlooked-for dilemma, I should have 
scarcely known how to proceed, had I not 
received by the same opportunity a commu- 
nication from the Imam, stating that, having 
accidentally learnt how I was situated, he 
had given orders for my accommodation to 
any extent, by drafts upon his own treasury. 
The opposition I had encountered in quarters 



XI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 16') 

so unexpected (which was of course imme- 
diately published abroad), not only created 
suspicions as to the honesty of my views, 
but even rendered it questionable if I was in 
reality the accredited person I had described 
myself to be. It was, therefore, with no 
ordinary feelings of gratitude that I found 
myself relieved from the probable conse- 
quences of these surmises by the generosity 
of the prince. The detention, however, to 
which this occurrence subjected me, was pro- 
ductive of consequences even more serious, 
and which for a time completely obstructed 
the objects of the expedition. 

Several days elapsed before my letters could 
reach Lieutenant Whitelock, and during this 
period I was repeatedly warned by the 
Sheikh that I was risking my health by 
staying so long at Neswah ; that strangers 
from any part in Oman rarely remained more 
than three or four days without being at- 
tacked with dangerous fevers. Confiding, 
however, in my general health, which was 
then excellent, I was heedless enough to pay 
but little attention to their advice. 

On the 10th all my servants fell sick, and 



160 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

on the 13th I was added to the number. 
The fever was of the most violent and singular 
character, the paroxysms frequently coming 
on twice in the twenty-four hours, and some- 
times never leaving the patient for double 
that period. It attacked my head, and pro- 
duced delirium forty-eight hours after its first 
appearance. Without attendants, my situa- 
tion was lonely and cheerless ; and until the 
morning of the 18th I was insensible to all 
which was passing. I believe some Arabs, 
sent by the Sheikh, took charge of me for a 
part of the time. The fever on the previous 
evening had reached its height, and a favour- 
able change now took place ; the cool blood 
again traversed my veins, I regained posses- 
sion of my faculties, and gradually became 
better, though dreadfully reduced and de- 
bilitated. 

On the 20th I was joined by Lieut. White- 
lock, who had not been more fortunate than 
ourselves. He too was suffering from a fever 
caught at Maskat, which had left him so 
weak, that he could neither walk nor stand 
without assistance. He had procured the 
necessary funds, and entered into an engage- 



XI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 167 

meat with a Sheikh, in the Imam's presence, 
to convey us, when we reached Bire'imah, with 
one hundred of his followers, to El Hassa, 
and from thence to Der'ayyah ; but for the pre- 
sent it was necessary all our plans should be 
abandoned. To proceed in our present state 
of health was impossible ; to remain at Nes- 
wah was to destroy the only chance of re- 
covery for the other patients, who were now 
sinking fast; and not without a severe pang 
of vexation, I turned from all my former 
splendid visions, to a determination of pro- 
ceeding at once to Sib, on the sea-coast, in 
which spot, renowned for its salubrity, I 
hoped in a short time to recover the health 
of all. 

On the 22nd January, accompanied by the 
Sheikh and about fifty of his followers, we 
left Neswah * in circumstances somewhat dif- 
ferent from those under which we had first 
entered it. We were then full of health, and 
joyous at the idea of visiting unknown dis- 

* Spelt Nizzuwah in the accompanying Map, which seems to 
be the more correct orthography. This town is called Tama in 
Idrisi's printed epitome.— Geog. Nub. page 54. In the Oxford 
MSS. it is spelt *jj. 



]68 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

tricts ; but now, worn down and somewhat 
despondent from sickness, the appearance and 
condition of our party was far less enviable : 
one of the servants fell repeatedly from the 
ass on which he was mounted, and the Be- 
dowins at last were compelled to lash him on 
a camel. 

After four hours we reached Birket el 
Moge, which I have already noticed as en- 
joying a good climate; and here, finding it 
impossible, from the state of the party, to pro- 
ceed, I pitched the tent, and determined to 
remain for a few days. My own health and 
spirits continued to improve at Birket, but 
that of the rest of the party received small 
amendment. The Arabs were very attentive, 
and supplied us with every necessary, and on 
the *26th January, there being a general be- 
lief that the party was strong enough to pro- 
ceed once more, we struck the tent and con- 
tinued our journey. 

Quitting Birket at eleven hours, a.m., we 
continued for forty minutes through a date 
grove, and over cultivated ground, and then 
entered a shallow stony valley, with a few 
dwarfish mimosas scattered over its surface. 



XI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. J (if) 

At 1*30 we passed the village and date grove 
of Zikki, which is romantically situated in 
a hollow, under some hills, on which also 
there are several towns. At two hours we 
passed the small hamlet and grove of Karrul , 
and at 3 p.m., arrived at the northern termi- 
nation of the town of Maty, where we halted 
for the night. 

Wednesday 27th. At 11 a.m. we left Maty, 
which contains about three hundred houses. 
Contiguous to it is another village, nearly 
equal in size, named Tihama. From hence 
our route continued along a stony valley, 
called Wadi Roweyha, with hills about five 
hundred feet in t height on either hand. We 
passed several villages and date groves, which 
appear on the map ; and water, with much 
cultivation, was seen throughout the day. 
Several kafilahs (caravans) of from thirty to 
forty camels passed us laden with fresh fish, 
principally sharks, for the interior towns. 
The approach of a long train of camels, as 
they move slowly along in these narrow r and 
rugged glens, has a most picturesque and 
striking effect. Before emerging from some 
cape of the hills, we first hear the voice of the 



170 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [cH. 

camel-leader breaking the overheated sultri- 
ness of the atmosphere — now chanting to the 
utmost extent of his voice some traditionary 
song, or in reproachful accents chiding for 
tardiness or wanderings his docile, patient 
charge. Each animal has its separate rider, 
and as the whole train becomes exposed to 
view, the ever-ready matchlock and sword 
denote the general insecurity of the country, 
while the gay trappings of the camels, their 
lighter colour, the long woollen tufts sus- 
pended from the party-coloured saddles, and 
almost sweeping along the ground, stand out 
in bold relief from the dark and frowning 
crags around. We had a strong breeze, with 
dark cloudy weather, throughout the whole of 
the day. At four hours we halted at the 
hamlet of Byah. 

Thursday 28th. The camel-men this morn- 
ing were very clamorous, and from some whim 
of their own, after packing, they again re- 
moved everything from the camels, refusing 
to proceed, and at 11 a.m. were about to re- 
turn to Neswah, leaving us to shift for our- 
selves. An old man, despatched by the 
Sheikh of Neswah, on a supposition that 



XI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 171 

something of this kind might occur, arrived 
at the moment, and soon brought them to 
order, and at twelve hours we quitted By ah. 
The country we are passing over continues 
along a valley, and is nearly the same as that 
described yesterday. The hamlets, fresh 
water, &c, are equally numerous ; they all 
appear on the map, and a mere insertion of 
their names, when no other distinction marks 
them, would answer no useful purpose. The 
hills on either hand are of a micaceous schist, 
of nearly equal height ; they have usually a 
pyramidal outline, are rugged, and of a dark 
colour, crossed by veins and patches of a 
lighter grey. There is, however, a consider- 
able change in the appearance of the soil ; as 
we approach the coast it becomes more sandy 
and of a lighter colour. Instead of occurring 
in open plains, as within the oases, the groves 
are now found in narrow valleys, and in place 
of a falodge, all the streams leading to them 
are above the surface *. Fruit and grain be- 
come more scarce, and the date palm forms 
the principal object in sight. At five hours 
we halted at the south-east termination of the 

* These streams are styled Tas'l. 



172 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

town of Semayel, which is considered the 
half-way station between Maskat and Nes- 
wah, and took up our quarters in a very small 
but neat Cadjan hut. A beautiful stream of 
water glided along before the door. Weary 
and faint from the fatigue of our day's journey, 
in order to enjoy the freshness of the evening- 
breeze, I had spread my carpet beneath a tree. 
An Arab passing by, paused to gaze upon 
me, and touched by my condition and the 
melancholy which was depicted in my coun- 
tenance, he proffered the salutation of peace, 
pointed to the crystal stream which, sparkling, 
held its course at my feet, and said, " Look, 
friend; for running water maketh the heart 
glad." With his hands folded over his breast, 
that mute but most graceful of Eastern salu- 
tations, he bowed and passed on. I was in a 
situation to estimate sympathy ; and so much 
of that feeling was exhibited in the manner of 
this son of the Desert, that I have never since 
recurred to the incident, trifling as it is, with- 
out emotion. From the Sheikh of this town 
we received much attention and civility ; he 
expressed the most lively concern at witness- 
ing the state of our health, and most conn'- 



XI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. l7.'» 

dently predicted a speedy recovery at Sib : 
he even offered to allow two of his own slaves 
to accompany us to the coast, which was in a 
high degree liberal, for few Mussulmans are 
fond of lending their slaves to Christians. 

Friday 29tJu At 10*50 we left our comfort- 
able quarters, and did not arrive at the op- 
posite termination of Semayel until 12*50. 
Throughout the whole distance an abundance 
of water is found. On the heights on either 
side the valley, which is about a quarter of a 
mile in width, watch-towers have been erected 
at various distances, and their appearance, 
perched on the summit of some craggy pin- 
nacle, is very picturesque. At the termina- 
tion of the Semayel grove, another nearly 
equally extensive, crosses it in a transverse 
direction ; beyond this, with the exception of 
a small hamlet, the valley continues desert 
and barren, until we arrive at 5*20 at Furza, 
where there is a small fort erected on a neigh- 
bouring hill, around which are several neatly- 
constructed houses. We suffered much in 
our present weak state from the heat of the 
weather, which in these narrow valleys was at 
times truly oppressive. I have often, on such 
occasions, admired the patience of the Be- 



174 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [cH. 

dowins, who, with a pair of tattered sandals 
on their feet, which but partially protect them 
from the hot sand, and with heads bared to 
the scorching heat of the sun, will walk all 
day alongside their camels, without uttering 
a murmur of complaint or impatience, and in 
the evening will make their supper on dates 
and a draught of water in perfect content- 
ment. In attacks of pain or disease they 
exhibit the same inherent spirit of resigna- 
tion and fortitude. An old man we had with 
us on this occasion suffered so much from an 
internal complaint, that he frequently dis- 
mounted from his camel, and writhed in un- 
controllable agony in the sand ; yet when the 
paroxysm was over, not a syllable of discon- 
tent escaped him. Their children are also 
taught at an early age to suppress all out- 
ward signs of emotion ; and whatever may be 
the extent of their misfortunes in after life, 
" Allah Akbar" (God is great) is all that 
escapes from them. 

Saturday, 30th. At 1030 we again proceeded, 
the face of the country having the same bar- 
ren appearance as yesterday, until 12*30, 
when we entered Wadi Khor, through which 
a very large stream flows towards the sea. It 



XI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 175 

was beautifully clear, and in some places 
twenty feet across, with an irregular chain of 
pools six or eight feet in depth, and a line of 
date groves extending on either hand. We 
next ascended a small eminence, and beheld 
the sea ; and continuing our journey over the 
maritime plain, at 3.50 arrived at Sib, where 
we took up our quarters in a small round fort, 
near the sea-beach. This rude tenement was, 
however, so infested with cats, rats, and other 
vermin, that I shifted our quarters to my tent, 
which, in order to enjoy the delicious coolness 
and freshness of the sea-breeze, we pitched 
beneath some trees near the beach. The 
climate of Sib had not been exaggerated, for 
after recovering from the immediate fatigue of 
the journey, the whole of the party rapidly 
recovered. To insure ourselves against the 
possibility of a relapse, which in these fevers 
is more to be dreaded than the original dis- 
ease, I delayed my intention of moving until 
the 20th ; and finding we were all then suf- 
ficiently recovered, wrote to the Imam at 
Maskat, requesting he would furnish a guide 
to conduct me to Bireimah, the frontier sta- 
tion of the Wahhabis. From hence, though 



176 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

the season was for advanced, I had but little 
reason to doubt being able, with some kafilah, 
yet to reach Der'ayyah. My disappointment 
was therefore very great on learning from his 
Highness in reply, that the Wahhabis had 
but a few days before made a sudden irrup- 
tion into the northern parts of Oman ; that 
they had seized, plundered, and burnt several 
towns near to Sohar ; that the inhabitants of 
Abree, on the road to Bireimah, were engaged 
in hostilities against their neighbours; and 
that his Highness would most strongly recom- 
mend, in the present unsettled state of affairs, 
that I should not continue my journey. I 
never contemplated being able to complete 
the duty on which I was employed without 
risk ; and this was an occasion involving in 
itself the examination of nearly half the pro- 
vince, which appeared to justify my under- 
going it to the fullest extent ; nor did I as yet 
despair, if I could reach Bireimah, of being 
able to pass on to Der'ayyah. With many 
acknowledgments, therefore, for his kindness, 
I communicated my wishes to the Imam, 
and I was highly pleased on the morning 
of the 24th to find at my tent a most re- 



XI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 177 

spectable old man, well known throughout the 
country, in perfect readiness to accompany us. 

The houses at Sib stand separately, and 
in groups of two or three, amidst the date 
groves. Fresh meat, fruit, and vegetables 
may be obtained, and the bazar, consider- 
ing the small number of inhabitants, is well 
supplied. When the Imam heard of our 
arrival here, instructions were immediately 
despatched to the Sheikh to furnish us with 
whatever we should require, and he certainly 
acted up to the spirit of the order. Small 
presents of fruit, brought from Persia, pre- 
serves, and other articles which it was thought 
might be agreeable or of service to us in our 
weak state, arrived occasionally from the 
Prince ; and I have little doubt but that our 
speedy recovery was in a great measure o wing- 
to the unremitting attention we received. 

I would here rather subject myself to the 
imputation of egotism, than omit the follow- 
ing anecdote, because it displays the generous 
feelings I have elsewhere attributed to this 
great prince, in a very favourable point of 
view. It has been previously noticed that 
during my stay at Mask at, a Frenchman was, 

VOL. I. N 



178 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

to appearance, dying, in a vessel alongside of 
that in which I was. Unwilling, however, to 
forego the chance which still remained of his 
recovery by change of air, I hired a boat to 
convey him to Sib, a situation possessing a 
more salubrious atmosphere than Maskat, and 
gave those to whose care he was entrusted a 
few dollars to defray his expenses in case he 
survived, or inter him should he not. When 
this circumstance was mentioned to the 
Prince, he struck the crooked staff* (which 
he carries, in common with all other Arabs,) 
forcibly on the ground, and said, with much 
energy, " That's a man." 

When we reflect that the custom of giving 
presents, so general throughout the East, is in 
most cases directed by ostentatious rather 
than generous motives, and that his High- 
ness was not ignorant of the national enmity 
existing between France and England, it re- 
quired (at least in Asia) that nicety of feeling 
with which he is so eminently gifted to have 
enabled him to appreciate the motives in 
which, according to his judgment, the mere 
act of humanity I have briefly alluded to must 

* This custom appears to be of great antiquity. — See Herodotus. 



XI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 179 

have originated. Hitherto too little has been 
known in Europe respecting this enlightened 
Prince. His recent appropriate present to 
our Sailor King of a large vessel of war com- 
pletely equipped, and his desire to form a 
more intimate alliance with Great Britain, 
has brought him into some political notice, 
while his munificent encouragement of science 
and the arts, has attracted the attention of an 
influential learned society, which lately nomi- 
nated him one of its honorary members. 

These occurrences are but trifling, and I 
must solicit some indulgence for their inser- 
tion. Indeed, were I to record every act of 
consideration and kindness which we received 
from the Prince during our stay in Oman, 
there are few of the pages of this journal in 
which they might not be made to appear. 
To say that they were accepted with different 
and higher feelings than those with which we 
are usually disposed to view the favours of 
the great, expresses faintly my sense and 
recollection of them ; but that they should 
have awakened a feeling of this nature, may 
convey an idea to others of the mode and 
spirit in which they were bestowed. 

n 2 



I HO TRAVELS IN OMAN. fCH 



CHAPTER XII. 

How to avoid being plundered — Bedowin Fort — Intense cold — 
Crossing Torrents — Rapid Vegetation — Burka — Population, 
Trade, Revenue, fyc. — Arab Law-suits — The Bazar — Fishery — 
Mesndh — Interview with the Sheikh — Dissimulation — Dates — 
Distillation of Arrack — Superb Shells — Suwe'ik — The Sheikh's 
Wife—Seyyid Hildl— Personal Appearance and Generosity — 
Energy and Influence of Arab Females. 

February 25th. At 2*10 we left our encamp- 
ment. Our life here had been so dull and 
monotonous, that none of the party were 
sorry to quit it. In order to hold out as little 
temptation as possible for plunder to the wild 
tribes with which we were about to mix, we 
had reduced our baggage to a single trunk 
and the inner part of the tent: so that the 
number of camels was reduced to five, the 
same number as the party. 

After leaving the skirts of the village, we 
continued, until 4*30, to pass a succession of 



XII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 181 

gardens and the richest vegetation. Fields 
of wheat and barley continually presented 
themselves springing from a dark and loamy 
soil. 

At 530, being overtaken by a violent 
squall, we were happy to obtain shelter in 
a wretched building called a Bedowin fort. 
The rain fell in torrents, and the thunder 
and lightning were truly awful : at times it 
blew a hurricane, and the camels grew so 
alarmed that, though turned adrift to browse 
on the herbage around, they crowded about 
the door whenever it was opened, and en- 
deavoured to effect an entrance. Some fe- 
males, who had followed the party from Sib, 
were crying all night with fright and cold, 
for the roof of the small space in which we 
had crowded, admitted the water in every 
direction, and all were completely drenched. 
I was most happy when the dawn of day per- 
mitted us to crawl out of our den, and warm 
our cramped limbs in the sun. 

Friday, 26th February. Last night's heavy 
rain has filled the hitherto dry beds of all 
the streams, and now, having overflown their 
banks, they are rushing with much impetu- 



182 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [_CH. 

osity towards the sea. We easily crossed all 
these on our camels, but in several places the 
poor asses, driven before us, lost their footing 
in the violence of the current, and were in 
imminent danger of perishing. Every part 
of the road being flooded, we, in consequence, 
soon lost all traces of the track, and, after 
floundering about until we were all covered 
with mud, I prevailed on old Ali Ibn Megati 
to cross over to the sea-beach. The peasants 
we met were all, however, in high glee at the 
prospect of a plentiful harvest, and the abun- 
dant pasturage which would now very shortly 
be afforded to their flocks. It is, indeed, 
most astonishing to witness the change a 
single shower produces on the face of this 
country. The most arid and sandy districts 
become, with others more promising, com- 
pletely clothed with a light grass, which, for 
a time, wholly changes the appearance of the 
country ; but this, unfortunately, is of brief 
duration. The dews at night afford nourish- 
ment for a time, but the heat of the sun's 
rays soon predominates, and, in a week or 
ten days, all becomes parched and arid as 
before. 



XII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 183 

Burka was formerly the summer residence 
of the Imam, and here he rid himself, by 
stratagem, of his formidable uncle, Seif Ibn 
Buddu. 

x\t present Burka is principally remarkable 
for its fort, which, owing to its great height 
and size, is very conspicuous from seaward. 
It mounts thirty pieces of artillery; but so 
little attention is paid to them or their car- 
riages, that not one half could be fired ; yet 
is it deemed by the Arabs impregnable ; nor, 
probably, so far as they themselves are con- 
cerned, are they mistaken. An almost total 
ignorance in such affairs is common to both 
the attacking party and the besieged, and 
the means and appliances of the former 
would be insufficient to overcome the advan- 
tages possessed by the latter, Seyyid Hilal's 
harem was confined here at the period of my 
visit, and we were not, in consequence, ad- 
mitted beyond one of the towers near the 
entrance. From the summit of this I, how- 
ever, obtained a good set of theodolite bear- 
ings, and also a tolerable view of the town 
and its neighbourhood. Surrounding the 
fort, at a distance of two hundred yards from 



184 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

either side, there is a turreted wall, and, 
within the intermediate space, some neat and 
substantial houses. I noticed, as a peculi- 
arity, several that had pillars in front, sup- 
porting a rude portico : this I never observed 
in any other part of Arabia. The other ha- 
bitations are merely cadjan huts, containing 
by far the greatest number of inhabitants. 

Including women and children, the popula- 
tion of Burka may be estimated at four thou- 
sand. A considerable portion of these, as on 
other parts of the coast, are employed in fish- 
ing, and the remainder attend the date trees. 
The bazar is very extensive, and the Be- 
dowins flock in from the surrounding country 
to make purchases of grain, cloth, &c, and 
almost every article procurable in Maskat 
may be obtained here. The anchorage at 
Burka is an open roadstead, affording no pro- 
tection against the prevailing breezes. The 
same remark applies to nearly every town on 
the coast, and they have, in consequence, but 
few bagalas of any burthen trading along it. 
Merchandize is brought from or conveyed to 
Maskat in small boats, of from thirty to fifty 
tons burthen. Vessels of this size upon the 



XII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 185 

approach of bad weather are hauled upon 
shore beyond the action of the sea with little 
difficulty. 

A revenue of from three to four hundred 
dollars is annually drawn from Burka. It 
arises principally from dates, on which, as 
well as on all other exports or imports, a 
duty of ten per cent, is levied. The Imam 
maintains a small force of about two hundred 
men here : their wages are partly paid out of 
this impost. 

Sunday, 28th. We passed the morning in 
listening to some law cases, mostly relative 
to debts and trifling offences, which were de- 
cided by the Kadi. It rained hard all day, 
and we were unable to leave, but derived 
considerable amusement from watching the 
busy scenes passing in the bazar. The seller 
disposes his several articles in a heap before 
him, and seats himself quietly on his haunches 
beside it. A buyer approaches, and the affair 
is settled, probably, after not more than half 
a dozen words have been spoken. But mark 
the contrast : at the distance of a few yards 
is also seated a female, who sells grain ; one 
of her own sex approaches for the purpose of 



186 TRAVELS IN OMAN. {CH. 

buying ; — that war of words has lasted now 
nearly an hour, and yet appears no nearer a 
conclusion than at first. Here there is a boy 
with a basket of dates on his head, bawling 
forth, as he totters under the weight of his 
load, the superiority of his commodity and its 
price. There, a man parading to and fro 
with a turban and a pair of sandals. At a 
distance are some butchers' stalls, and beef 
mutton, &c, are doled out to those who crowd 
around it, by means of a very rude pair of 
wooden scales, having stones as a substitute 
for weights. 

Monday, February 29th. Quitting Burka, 
at eight hours, we passed in succession the 
various villages and towns which appear on 
the map. The fishery is here conducted on 
a grand scale, by means of nets many hun- 
dred fathoms in length, which are carried out 
by boats. The upper part is supported by 
small blocks of wood, formed from the light 
and buoyant branches of the date palm, while 
the lower part is loaded with lead. To either 
extremity of this a rope is attached, by which, 
when the whole of the net is laid out, about 
thirty or forty men drag it towards the shore. 



XII. ] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 187 

The quantity thus secured is enormous, and 
what they do not require for their own con- 
sumption is salted and carried into the inte- 
rior. When, as is very generally the case, 
the nets are the common property of the 
whole village, they divide the produce into 
equal shares ; but if they belong to a private 
individual, or a company, those only who as- 
sist receive a share proportionate to their de- 
gree of labour. 

Upon our first arrival at Mesnaah, I went 
to the Sheikh's house, and, after waiting up- 
wards of an hour in a court-yard, amidst his 
slaves, and without any protection from the 
sun, I became somewhat angry, and passed 
on to a small date grove, about a mile from 
the town, where we pitched our tent. 

February 30t?i. At daylight on the follow- 
ing morning I received a visit from the 
Sheikh, who came to seek an explanation 
for my leaving his town without seeing him. 
He exhibited as much state as his means en- 
abled him to assume, walking alone at a pace 
or two before his followers, who were about 
thirty in number. After he had seated him- 
self, and made known the purport of his 



188 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

visit, I simply stated, that it was not our cus- 
tom to stand at any man's door for the length 
of time I had waited at his, and if he had 
been aware of it, I was sorry he so lightly 
considered the character of a British officer 
as to suppose he would put up with such 
treatment, and that if his slaves were our 
servants, they would be severely punished 
for their neglect. He expressed the utmost 
surprise at all this, which he pretended to 
have heard for the first time, observing that 
he was at prayers, and hoped I would think 
no more of the matter. He then took his 
leave, swearing vengeance against his at- 
tendants, — all which was, however, feigned, 
— the very men being at that time standing 
around him. It is but fair to confess that 
such behaviour is by no means common, ex- 
cepting, as in this instance, with petty 
Sheikhs, who strive to enhance their dignity 
in the eyes of their followers, by keeping per- 
sons of any consideration waiting when they 
call upon them. 

The date trees on this coast form a con- 
tinuous grove to Khorfakan, a distance of 
one hundred and fifty miles, and the Arabs 



XII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 181) 

have a saying that a traveller may proceed 
the whole distance without ever losing their 
shade. Dates form the principal export from 
Oman, large quantities being taken to India, 
where a considerable share is consumed in 
making the government arrack. The middle 
classes of the Mussulman and Hindoo popu- 
lation are very partial to them. The best 
are brought from Basrah and Bahrein, those 
from Oman being classed next in excellence. 
There are several methods of preserving 
them ; some are simply dried, and then 
strung on lines ; others, which is the usual 
plan, are packed in baskets. Notwithstand- 
ing their great number, every tree has its 
separate owner, and disputes between the 
relations of those who die intestate are, in 
consequence, very frequent. Towards noon 
we left our encampment, and continued 
along the beach, passing numerous hamlets 
and villages. Firewood seems very plentiful 
here ; it is packed in large stacks, ranged 
along the beach, so that boats in passing run 
in, purchase, and load at once. From thence 
we passed the skeleton of a whale, a large 
quantity of roots of trees, and other drift- 



190 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

wood, several varieties of sea- weed, of which 
the Sargossum vulgare and the Fucus barbatus 
were most commonly met with. The beach 
was almost entirely composed of fragments of 
most superb shells, and I picked up several 
very beautiful specimens. 

At 3*30 we arrived at Suik, and found the 
Sheikh absent, looking for the Wahhabis, 
who, it had been reported, were then in the 
neighbourhood ; but we were most hospitably 
received by the Sheikh's wife, who had a 
house and every other accommodation very 
soon prepared for us. The orders of this 
lady (of whom more anon) were much to the 
point. " You will please those gentlemen," 
said she to her slaves who were sent to at- 
tend us, " and let them want nothing, or look 
to your heads." We accordingly received 
every luxury which the Sheikh's kitchen 
could afford. 

In the course of the evening the Sheikh 
returned from an unsuccessful search. I had 
procured a letter for this individual from the 
Bombay government, as he was considered to 
possess considerable influence over the Be- 
dowins in Northern Oman. Probably no- 



XII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 191 

thing eould have afforded him more satisfac- 
tion than this mark of our notice, and he was, 
partly from this, and partly from his own 
natural hospitality, most attentive to me dur- 
ing my stay. 

Seyyid Hilal, a cousin of Seyyid S'aid's, is 
about thirty-five years of age, and in point of 
character, he stands of all the chiefs of Oman 
next to that prince : his figure is tall and 
commanding ; he excels in all warlike exer- 
cises ; is passionately attached to hunting and 
other field sports ; and though somewhat 
spare in figure, is considered, in addition to 
his extraordinary agility, the strongest man 
of his nation : he is generous to profusion. 
I have heard the Arabs in Maskat relate that 
when upon a visit to the Imam, he has re- 
ceived from him a present of eight hundred 
or a thousand dollars ; in the course of a 
couple of hours afterwards, he has bestowed 
the whole of it in presents to his followers. 

When the surveying vessels visited this 
coast in 1828, a large portion of the sur- 
rounding country, including the extensive 
groves of Kothra, and many towns on the 
sea-coast, were tributary to this chief; but 



\9'2 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

shortly after the Sheikh of Sohar possessed 
himself of his own territory he. with a view 
of increasing the number of his forces, so as 
to enable him to act with greater efficiency 
against the Imam, made an offer to the several 
petty Sheikhs and their followers, if they 
would enlist under his banners, and quit those 
of Seyyid Hilal, to remit the whole of the im- 
posts which had been by that chief formerly 
exacted from them. The bait was too tempt- 
ing to be resisted, and in the course of a few 
days Seyyid Hilal, from possessing an influ- 
ence which had rendered him formidable even 
to the Imam, found himself stripped of his 
territory, his revenue, and his power, and 
eventually became a mere pensionary to him. 

Connected with this struggle, two events 
occurred, which display the energy and influ- 
ence of the Arab females in so strong a light, 
that I shall give insertion to them. 

A few years ago, Seyyid Hilal was induced, 
under promise of protection, to proceed to 
Maskat. Some accusations were brought 
against him of endeavouring to subvert the 
authority of the Imam, by instigating the 
Bedowins to rebellion. Immediatelv that the 



XII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 193 

Sheikh's wife, a sister of Sayyid S'aid's, heard 
the intelligence, she sent messengers to collect 
the various Bedowin tribes who were in the 
interest of her husband, and made other pre- 
parations to march in person against the do- 
minions of the Imam ; but before any succours 
could arrive, the latter had despatched a force 
to Suwe'ik, in order to take possession of the 
fort, with an assurance, that unless it was given 
up, the Sheikh should be put to death. " Go 
back/' said this spirited female, when the 
message was delivered to her ; " Go back to 
those who sent you, and tell them that I will 
defend the fort to the utmost of my power; 
and if they choose to cut him to pieces before 
me, they will find it make no alteration in my 
resolution." She accordingly defended it with 
so much bravery and skill, that the Imam's 
force, after losing several men and wasting 
considerable time, were compelled to raise the 
siege and proceed to Maskat. Some months 
afterwards, the Imam became convinced of 
the falsehood of the charges exhibited against 
the Sheikh, and permitted him to return to 
his own government. 

The Sheikh's sister distinguished herself in 
vol. i. o 



194 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

a similar manner while in charge of the same 
fort, against an unexpected attack made by 
the Sheikh of Sohar. The latter was passing 
on his road to Rostak, with a body of about 
two hundred men, without any apparent in- 
tention of acting against it, when he suddenly 
turned, and brought the whole of his force 
before the walls. 

Though the Sheikh was absent, his place 
was well supplied by this lady, who closed 
the gates, collected the garrison, harangued 
them, and finally made such good use of the 
guns, which are mounted on the towers, that 
after a stay of three days, and several in- 
effectual attempts to lead his troops again to 
the assault, the Sheikh was obliged to abandon 
his enterprise. 

Report says that Sayyid Hilal feels the 
greatest respect for, and stands in some awe of 
this dame, without whose advice and concur- 
rence he undertakes nothing of moment. 



XIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. W6 



CHAPTER XIII. 

Household of Sayyid Hildl—A Professed Story-teller —Arabian 
Nights — Arab Artillery— Anecdote— Manufactures, fyc, of 
Suweik—Arab Horsemanship — Weapons — Hire Horses — Bid 
adieu to the Sheikh— Shepherds— Kothrd — Irruption of the 
Wahhabis — El dbu Sheid — Cultivation — Alarm — Desertion of 
the Guard — Feletch, Romantic situation of — A ragged Regi- 
ment — Mountain Torrent — Cheerful Encampment — Dan- 
gerous Ford — Muskin — Progress of Vegetation. 

Sayyid Hilal lives in more state than any 
other chief 1 have met with in Oman. The 
number of his household slaves is said to 
exceed a hundred, and of these twenty or 
thirty, attached to his person, wear a neat 
uniform. A huge meal, consisting of a great 
variety of dishes, sufficient for thirty or 
forty people, was prepared in his kitchen, 
and brought to us on large copper dishes, 
twice a day during the time we remained. 
They were all dressed according to the most 
approved Persian style, and we soon became 
warm converts to their culinary process. On 

o 2 



196 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

these occasions, there was a great profusion 
of blue and gilt China ware, cut glass dishes, 
and decanters, containing not wine but sher- 
bet, with several other costly articles. The 
Sheikh, after his evening meal, usually passed 
several hours with us. I was fond of lead- 
ing him to various topics connected with the 
tribes in northern Oman, and his conversation 
afforded me much interesting and valuable 
intelligence. 

On one occasion he was accompanied by a 
professed story-teller, who appeared to be a 
great favourite with him. " Whenever I feel 
melancholy or out of order," said the Sheikh, 
" I send for this individual, who very soon 
restores me to my wonted spirit." From the 
falsetto tone in which the story was chanted, 
I could not follow the thread of the tale, and 
upon my mentioning this to him, the Sheikh 
very kindly sent me the manuscript, of which 
the reciter had availed himself. With little 
variation, I found it to be the identical Sin- 
bad the Sailor, so familiar to the readers of 
the Arabian Nights. I little thought, when 
first I perused these fascinating tales in my 
own language, that it would ever be my lot to 



XI II. j TRAVELS IN OMAN. 197 

listen to the original, in a spot so congenial 
and so remote. 

Suweik is a small walled town containing 
about seven hundred houses. The fort, situ- 
ated nearly in the centre, and garrisoned by 
the Sheikh's household slaves, is a large 
strong building, mounting a few guns on its 
towers. The Arabs have a singular practice 
of keeping two or three pieces of artillery 
just without the entrance of their forts. As 
I passed these one day with the Sheikh, I in- 
quired of him if it would not prove somewhat 
awkward if the castle should be surprised , 
and the attacking party get possession of 
these, so that they could at once, by blowing 
open the gates, obtain a fair entrance. He 
laughed and said, " Our warfare differs some- 
what from yours, as I had reason to witness 
at Beni Abu 'All. In the first place, the 
Arabs, in all probability, would not think of 
such an act, and even if they did, as you 
know we do not carry guns when we go to 
war, I question whether they could muster 
sufficient powder, or if so, know how to load 
them afterwards." 

The greater number of people belonging to 



108 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

SuweTk live in small huts without the walls. 
They fabricate turbans and lungis here, but 
the greater number, as in most other parts 
of the coast, are employed in fishing or agri- 
cultural pursuits. 

The population is a good deal mixed, but 
the same toleration is exercised as in Maskat. 
Even the Shiahs have a mosque here. 

Friday, March \th. At 10*45, accompanied 
by the Sheikh and about 40 horsemen, we 
left the town. Having emerged from the 
groves upon the open plains, they amused us 
with a display of their mode of attack in 
battle. In wheeling and pulling up at full 
gallop, they display on these occasions great 
command over their horses, and the bit they 
use is certainly a very severe instrument. 
They have no stirrups, and in place of a 
saddle, throw a quilt, stuffed with cotton, 
across the animal's back. 

Their principal and most formidable wea- 
pon is a spear about fifteen feet in length 
ornamented near the extremity with a tuft of 
red and black feathers. This is never thrown, 
but carried in nearly the same manner as was 
usual with the ancient chivalry of Europe. 



XIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 199 

Their loose, gay dresses, and splendid steeds 
of the purest Nejd breed, as they scoured at 
full gallop across the plain from various di- 
rections, were exhibited to great advantage. 
They have, on these occasions, a favourite 
manoeuvre by which individuals clasp each 
other by the thigh, and thus, side by side, urge 
their steeds to the utmost fleetness. Accom- 
panied by this gay party, all in the highest 
degree animated and excited, we pursued our 
course for five or six miles. Sayyid Hilal, 
who rode a beautiful horse, the value of which 
was estimated at three thousand dollars, and 
who had been foremost, in every exercise, 
then dismounted, and with many cautions as 
to our future line of action amidst his unruly 
neighbours, bid us a very kind farewell. We 
shook hands with all his followers, and then, 
as John Bunyan says, " went on our way." 

The groves and cultivated ground extend 
about three miles from the beach. Bevond 
that, the plains are crossed by many shallow 
streams, which have originated amidst the 
hills during the late rains. Very large gaff 
and sumr trees dot the surface of the land- 
scape ; and seated beneath their scanty and 



200 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

feathery shade, might frequently be seen an 
Arab shepherd, with several enormous dogs 
to aid him in his charge of the flock grazing 
around ; but his pipe and crook are wanting : 
their place is supplied by the matchlock and 
spear. 

At one hour we arrived (our course from 
Suwe'ik being w. \ n.) at the straggling and 
extensive Bedowin encampment of Kothra. 
Their huts are constructed of cadjans, and in 
order to shelter the inmates from occasional 
showers, are mostly shaped like the roof of an 
English barn. 

I was told by our guide, Sayyid ibn Mut- 
lock, that about four years ago, the Wahhabis, 
in a predatory excursion, approached Kothra 
by night, as was their usual custom, with a view 
to burn it. However, partly owing to their 
constant broils, and partly to the expectation 
of an attack from another quarter on the same 
evening, its inhabitants were well prepared ; 
and it was not until they had beaten off the 
enemy with considerable loss, that they dis- 
covered who their real adversaries were. 
Such is the dread inspired by the ravages of 
these fanatics, that upon any rumour of their 



XIII. j TRAVELS IN OMAN. 201 

approach private feuds are forgotten, and the 
several tribes forthwith unite together for 
mutual protection. These inroads are not, 
therefore, without their use ; they frequently 
prove, as in this case, the means of bringing 
together two tribes who for many years before 
had been at feud. Intermarriages then take 
place, and they become fixed in permanent 
alliance. 

El abu Sheid, El Sad, and El Hilal, are 
the principal tribes now confederated to- 
gether, whose aggregate number is estimated 
at three thousand men. They have numerous 
date groves, fields of grain, and plantations 
of sugar, cotton, and indigo. Within their 
groves are several forts, for they are an un- 
tractable race, caring nothing for Sayyid 
S'aid, or the Sheikh of Sohar. Although 
they formerly paid the zireat or tithe to the 
Sheikh of Suwe'ik, they now are frequently at 
feud with him. 

It being anticipated that something at issue 
at this period would lead to a disturbance, 
our party fetched a long circuit to avoid their 
encampment : this was settled before my re- 
turn, for we then passed without molestation 



202 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

through the centre of it. At four hours the 
country alters its appearance ; we have small 
hills intersected by deep narrow ravines, at 
the bottom of which there is a rich grass, on 
which numerous sheep were feeding. At 5*45 
we arrived at the village of Feletch. 

The whole country seems in a state of great 
alarm, owing to an anticipated visit from the 
Wahhabis. Ali ibn Negati was constantly 
inquiring for intelligence of all we met ; while, 
on the other hand, the unexpected appearance 
of our party created a most amusing scene 
of alarm and confusion. Girls and bovs 
screamed; men ran for their arms; their 
dogs barked incessantly ; while mothers were 
seen flying with their children under their 
arms, and adding by the shrilness of their 
voices, a delightful tenor to the Babel of 
sounds with which we were saluted. In vain 
Ali lifted up his voice to proclaim who we 
were ; it only increased the confusion. I 
then suggested that the party should halt 
when we reached a small eminence, and send 
a single slave to quiet them and explain 
matters. This produced the desired effect. 
In a few minutes they were all, male and 



XI II.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 203 

female, chatting and laughing around us with 
a vivacity and pleasure proportionate to their 
former alarm. They then very obligingly 
sent a meal of boiled mutton and rice, suffi- 
cient for the whole party. 

Saturday, March 5th. We found this morn- 
ing that our guard, notwithstanding the posi- 
tive directions they received from Sayyid 
Hilal at Suwe'ik, to accompany us to Obri, had 
decamped during the night with the camels, 
camel-men, and old Ali's ass. I was so much 
amused at the ire he displayed, and the curses 
he bestowed on them, their fathers, and fore- 
fathers, that I forgot our own helpless situation 
and detention. However, after breakfast, we 
prevailed on the Sheikh to ride over to a small 
town in the neighbourhood, where, as a ka- 
filah had passed yesterday, it was thought that 
others might be procured, and about noon he 
returned with as many as we required. 

Feletch is most romantically situated in a 
hollow, and consists of not more than two 
hundred houses interspersed amidst the trees, 
which frequently fling their bright green 
foliage over or around them, so as to render 
but a small portion visible. It is not easy for 



204 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

mere description to convey an idea of the 
singular effect produced by the verdant ap- 
pearance of this hollow, when contrasted with 
the light brown or chalky appearance of the 
hills which bound it. At 1*10 we left Feletch, 
with a ragged guard of six individuals, which 
the Sheikh insisted upon our taking. Our new 
friends certainly appeared, as far as clothing 
went, in somewhat indifferent trim. Their 
matchlocks too were rusted more than half 
through ; and otherwise, both as regards equip- 
ment and variety of figure and age, they really 
formed no bad prototypes of FalstafF's re- 
cruits. Moreover, they rode on asses, which 
here are somewhat diminutive, and the con- 
trast they presented to those mounted on the 
magnificent animals they were sent to protect, 
was too amusing to pass unnoticed even by 
the sedate and sober Ali, for, directly it 
appeared that he would have to travel in their 
company, he quitted the ass procured for him 
in lieu of the one he had lost, and mounted 
a camel. Our route lay for some time along 
the margin of a valley called Wadi Gabir, 
whose bed was but just moistened in the 
centre bv a stream, which, however, formed 



XIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 205 

at the sides a few shallow pools. We passed 
several colocynth shrubs to-day, and also a 
kind of dwarfish bush, bearing a small red 
fruit, in size and flavour resembling a cran- 
berry, of which the Bedowins are very fond. 
At four hours, descending a pass, we entered 
the valley of Russut el Kuroos, and at 5*15 
halted at the hamlet of Sidan : we were 
delighted with our resting-place, which was 
just at the gorge of the pass, where it emerges 
from amidst a pile of mountains of great 
height. The rugged and pinnacled summits 
of these shadowy masses, as they rose ab- 
ruptly in quick succession before us, were 
now receiving the last bright and gorgeous 
tints of a setting sun ; but the lower ranges 
were already lost in the evening's gloom. 
We could just perceive a mountain torrent 
about fifty yards in width, which takes its 
rise amidst the chain, and was now chafing 
or forming its way along the valley, over and 
between the rocks and other obstructions 
which line its bed. We soon lighted a large 
fire on its banks, by which we prepared our 
evening meal. Enjoying all our former health 
and wonted spirits, we indulged, whilst seated 



206 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

around its cheerful flames, in those gay and 
sanguine anticipations of the future, which 
involuntarily arise when the mind, warped 
for a time by sickness, recovers its former 
tone and elasticity. I believe that, whilst 
under the influence of this peculiar reaction, 
any incident or adventure, however perilous 
and wild, provided it afforded an ample por- 
tion of excitement, would have been far from 
disagreeable to us. 

March 6tk. After taking a hasty sketch 
of the entrance to this pass and the con- 
tiguous mountains, at 10*30 I continued my 
journey through the valley. There was no 
track except along the bed of the stream, 
which in some places was so deep and rapid 
that it nearly swept my horse from his legs. 
A few date groves, and an occasional cluster 
of huts, show themselves on either hand. At 
2 p.m. we struck off by a minor branch of the 
stream, along Wadi Thilah, to the westward. 
We had now penetrated beyond the lower 
ridges to the main branch of the mountains, 
which rose in steep precipices to the height 
of from three thousand to four thousand feet, 
terminating in abrupt and pointed forms. 



XIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 207 

Mica, slate, and felspar enters largely into 
their composition, and I spent a considerable 
time in examining the singular contortions of 
the former. A few aloes, dwarfish bushes 
and aromatic shrubs, on which some sheep 
browsed, are the only signs of vegetable life 
we met with, and at 5*30 we halted on the 
summit of a small hill. Old Ali's appre- 
hensions respecting the Wahabis were evi- 
dently increasing, for he stationed a guard 
with loaded matchlocks to look out during 
the night. I learnt, from casually questioning 
him on the subject, that his fears arose from 
the circumstance of the tract we were now 
crossing not being in the possession of Sayyid 
S'aid, but in that of his rival Mohammed 
of Sohar. 

Monday, 1th. At 11*30 we continued our 
journey along Wadi Thilah, passing the 
mouths of several lateral valleys. Our course 
now became so devious that I found it impos- 
sible to keep any account of it. At 2- 30 we 
ascended a hill about eight hundred feet in 
height, but I could obtain no other view from 
its summit than a vast wilderness of bare, 
bleak rocks and hills. After crossing this 



208 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

ridge, we gained the territory of the Beni Kal- 
ban, whose acknowledgment of the Imam's 
authority so delighted old Saaf, that on dis- 
mounting at the hour of prayer, he expressed 
his satisfaction by giving his camel more 
than half his supply of dates. We continued 
journeying for three hours along the valley, 
which is called Wadi Kalban, the name of 
its inhabitants, and passed large clustering 
patches of aloes, bearing a greater resem- 
blance to those of India than to the Aloe So- 
crotina. 

At 5*50 we halted, in the neighbourhood of 
Muskin, near some inclosures of wheat, which 
were secured from the intrusions of cattle by 
means of a rude fence constructed with the 
thorny branches of the nebek. Muskin is a 
small village, and appears to have derived its 
name from its peculiar situation amidst the 
hills. I was highly delighted to observe 
within these groves the whole process of 
vegetation exhibited in various stages of ad- 
vancement, by each particular species of tree. 
The date-palms were shedding the last year's 
leaves ; the mango, the plantain, the nebek, 
and the fig had renewed their foliage ; the 



XIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 209 

branches of the vine are still denuded ; while 
in their immediate vicinity the peasant is 
engaged reaping his corn : thus we see be- 
fore us the peculiar attributes of each season 
produced from different causes, at one and 
the same time. 



VOL. I. 



210 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

Tedious progress — Arab Bargains — Anecdote — Attempts at im- 
positions-Remedy — Honesty — Reflections — Mode of obtaining 
a proper insight into Character — Quit Muskin — Ophthalmia — 
Sheikh Nasser — Attempts to dissuade the Author from pro- 
ceeding — Makiniyat — Arab Funerals — Green Mountains — 
Solar Heat — Deresi — Shady Groves — General appearance of 
the Sheikhs of Oman — A Contrast — Inhospitable Treatment— 
The Wahhdbis — Expectation of an affray — Prepare to quit 
Obri. 

Wednesday, March 9th. Our progress 
through this part of the country is rendered 
slow and tedious, in consequence of its being 
divided into separate districts, all in a manner 
independent of each other, and acknowledg- 
ing but slightly the power of any general 
authority. As those who furnish camels for 
their own district will not, nor would they be 
permitted, to proceed further, it results that 
on entering the frontier of another, we are 
delayed to bargain for a fresh supply. This 
business, which sometimes lasted for two or 



XIV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 211 

three hours in one uninterrupted war of 
words, I was too happy to resign to old Ali, 
who entered with all an Arab's eagerness and 
talents for disputation into its full spirit. 
The patience of an Englishman (I advance 
the remark advisedly), however extensive his 
travels, would assuredly fail him on such 
occasions in a few minutes, and the wily Arab 
wishes no better advantage. Not so my friend 
Ali, who, confident of his own consummate 
address, appeared perfectly in his element. 
Their bargains usually commence in a low 
tone, by one party naming a price, ten times 
greater than what he intends to take, or ex- 
pects the other to give : a sneer, or stare of 
well-feigned astonishment, is the only answer : 
the debate gradually becomes warmer, and the 
parties shift their seats from one spot to the 
other. At one time old Ali's voice could be 
heard shouting high above that of his oppo- 
nent ; at another time, huddled together in 
some hollow, as if afraid the very winds might 
bear away some part of their counsels, I could 
just catch the sound of his voice, exerted in 
tones of pathos, reproach, expostulation, or 
entreaty. At length he would start up and 

p 2 



212 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

retire, breathing maledictions against their 
unheard-of rapacity, but followed by one or 
two of the by-standers who bring him back, 
when a repetition of the same scenes occurs, 
until the affair is settled. I must again 
repeat that no human being, save an Arab, 
could endure the trial to which his patience 
is subjected whilst adjusting these inter- 
minable bargains. Even when the affair, to 
all appearance, has been settled, something 
still remains to furnish a plea for new exac- 
tions ; a further supply of dates for them- 
selves, or fodder for their cattle, I found to 
be the favourite plea. Very often in the 
course of this journey I have been delayed 
for hours, rather than yield up a quarter of a 
dollar more than Ali informed me was the cus- 
tomary demand. When in Ja'ilan I had tried 
at first a contrary plan ; but got tired of giving 
long before they were of asking ; indeed, the 
experience of a few days convinced me that 
any concession was, in proportion to the 
amount conceded, made the plea for further 
exactions. In general, professed carriers, 
among the Bedowins, are a cheating, lying, 
avaricious race ; yet have they good qualities, 



XIV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 213 

among which may be noticed a thorough 
detestation of petty theft. I never lost the 
most trifling article of my baggage, but have 
frequently known them seek for any missing 
article with far more anxiety than I felt re- 
specting it ; and in fetching wood, water, and 
other similar duties, when we halted, they 
were usually very obliging. 

There is a class of travellers who proceed 
through a country with a determination to shut 
their eyes against all which does not accord 
with their peculiar views. They either entirely 
omit or only touch slightly on unfavourable 
points of character and manners, and are, 
generally speaking, more pleasing companions 
than men who pursue an opposite course. Yet 
it can scarcely admit of a question, that a per- 
fect estimate of the character of any people 
can only be acquired from a thorough know- 
ledge of their vices as well as virtues ; and the 
result of the examination will be, that both 
are more equally distributed than does at 
first sight appear. Viewing the matter in this 
light, and aware how illiberal it is to gene- 
ralise upon any topic, I have always endea- 



214 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

voured to record faithfully my impressions of 
those amongst whom I have been thrown, 
whether for good or evil. It has never oc- 
curred to me that the reader would consider 
their merits and demerits otherwise than ab- 
stractedly, and not as furnishing a national 
portraiture, which, in the instance I have just 
given, would be as unjust as if an estimate 
of the English character were formed from* its 
hackney or stage coachmen. 

March Wth. At 1230 we left Muskin for 
Makiniyat, and at five hours halted near the 
castle, where the chief of the Beni Kalban, 
Sheikh Wasser, resides. In the course of a 
few minutes, though he appeared to be suffer- 
ing from ophthalmia, he made his appearance 
to welcome us ; but when I presented Sayyid 
S'aid's letters, which were very strongly 
worded, and contained an urgent request 
that he would pass us on, he seemed sorely 
troubled. " Almost daily," said he, " are in- 
dividuals proceeding alone to Obri robbed 
for the sake of the tattered clothes on their 
backs ; and I am required to conduct you in 
safety, where the very name of an English- 



XIV. j TRAVELS IN OMAN. 215 

man will be sufficient to attract a host of 
plunderers." I told him that, having been 
made aware of the risks to be encountered 
long before we left, we should endeavour to 
bear any misfortune of that nature with good 
grace; and here indeed we were perfectly 
sincere, having taken good care to bring 
nothing of value with us. This evening and 
the greater part of the following day were 
consumed in negotiating with the Sheikh; 
but finding we were not to be driven from our 
purpose, he agreed on the morrow to furnish 
us with the best and largest guard his situa- 
tion would admit of. 

Though once a large city, Makiniyat has 
dwindled down to its present insignificant 
state, having never, as I was given to under- 
stand, recovered from a visit which the Wah- 
habis paid to it in 1800. They then took 
the castle, burnt the houses, and destroyed 
the greater number of trees. By a noon ob- 
servation, and several meridional transits of 
the stars, I fixed the latitude of Makiniyat at 
23° 21' 25" north. Here, as with many other 
towns in Oman, I was surprised at the little 
care which they bestow in the burial of their 



216 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

dead. The corpse, after being washed, is 
covered with a cloth and interred with very 
little ceremony. The grave is usually not 
more than three feet in depth, and after in- 
terment, a rude stone, without inscription of 
any kind, is placed at the head and feet. 

During my stay here a female died who 
was related to the Sheikh, and he, with all 
the male relations, followed the corpse to the 
grave. There are no hired mourners in these 
towns, but the females from the neighbour- 
hood of the deceased assemble, and continue 
for eight days, from sunrise to sunset, to utter 
loud and mournful lamentations. 

March llth. The body of the Green 
Mountains bore this morning E. by S. | S., 
and were distant about thirty-five miles. I 
found the Sheikh had assembled a guard of 
seventy men, scarcely more respectable in 
appearance, though somewhat better mounted 
than those supplied us from Muskin. At 
10*30 we left the skirts of the town, and pro- 
ceeded west, at a rapid pace, over the plains. 
Our escort sent forth scouts to the right and 
left, and an advanced party a-head : notwith- 
standing all their apprehensions, we reached 



XIV.] TRAVELS IN OMaN. 217 

the village of Ayal at 1*30 without meeting 
with a single individual. Our route ran 
along a broad valley, on either side of which 
the hills run in a table-topped range, with 
sloping sides, or are broken into detached 
chains, presenting isolated pyramidal hills, 
somewhat truncated at the upper part, but of 
the same uniform level and direction as the 
continuous ridges. Quitting Ayal, where we 
obtained a second guard, we entered another 
broad valley, in the centre of which there 
ran a narrow rivulet, and at 5*30 put up for 
the night at the small village of Arudh. 

March \2th. At ten hours our guard, who 
had passed the night right joyously within 
the walls of the village, being collected, we 
left, and crossed a succession of sandy, bar- 
ren plains, similar to those of yesterday. 
Not a breath of wind was stirring, and as we 
occasionally passed through the narrow val- 
leys which intersected our path, the concen- 
tration of the solar heat within them was 
almost overpowering. 

At 1250 we passed the extensive grove 
and town of Derese, with the people of which 
our party were at feud, and, in consequence, 



218 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

we gave it a wide berth. At 1-50 we arrived 
at the town of Inan : here the Sheikh of the 
tribe resides. A few years ago he was pos- 
sessed of considerable influence, not only in 
his immediate vicinity, but also with the 
most powerful tribes in Nejd ; but his power 
is now confined to Inan, where he usually 
shuts himself up in its fort. Our path con- 
ducted us through the centre of the town, 
and I observed that cultivation was carried 
on in inclosures to an extent equal to any 
spot I have seen in Oman : some of the trees 
are also very lofty, and, again, an imagina- 
tion at all alive to passing scenes must have 
been forcibly struck by the contrast which 
the shade and gloom, upon which we were 
now entering, presented to the dust and heat 
of the parched and sandy track we had just 
quitted. After passing another town, some- 
what similar, at 3*50 we arrived at Obri. 
Passing the bazar, they conducted us to an 
open space before the Sheikh's house, where 
we were left with our baggage to await his 
appearance. Towards sunset he paid us a 
visit, and I thought I could perceive at a 
glance the character of the being we had to 



XIV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 219 

deal with. It will apply as a general re- 
mark, that the Sheikhs of the towns in Oman 
are very personable men, with a dignified 
deportment and pleasing manners; but this 
was a sneaking, greasy-looking animal, who 
had more the appearance of a butcher than 
a Sheikh. Upon my producing the Imam's 
letters he read them, and, without returning 
any answer, took his leave. About an hour 
afterwards he sent a verbal message to re- 
quest that I should lose no time in quitting 
his town, as he begged to inform me, what 
he supposed I could not have been aware of, 
that it was then filled with nearly two thou- 
sand Wahhabis. This was, indeed, news to 
us : it was somewhat earlier than we antici- 
pated falling in with them, — but we put a 
good face on the matter, and behaved as 
coolly as we well could. In the mean time 
we prepared to pitch our tent, and, having 
done so, sent a messenger to the Sheikh to 
intimate that I wished to see him. About 
nine, a.m., he came, accompanied by some 
cut-throat looking ruffians, whom he styled 
his relations. I then led the conversation at 
once to the subject, and inquired what num- 



220 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

ber of men he could furnish to conduct me to 
Bireimah. This roused him, and he swore 
by the beard of the Prophet, such was now 
the danger of the road, that he neither could 
nor would furnish me with a man. I was un- 
prepared for his refusal, but, as we should 
never take an Arab at his first word, I strove, 
by every argument I could think of, to shake 
his resolution. I stated that the dangers of the 
road were well known to Seyyid S'aid at the 
time he addressed the letters, and his certain 
anger when he should learn that he had been 
disobeyed. I hinted that I would myself amply 
reward him, provided he would comply ; but 
he remained unmoved. Then, as a last re- 
source, I told him that I could not think of 
going back, unless he furnished me with a 
letter to the Imam, containing the substance 
of his present communication, which he very 
readily promised to do. I inquired if it was 
true he had sent a verbal message to re- 
quest I should leave his town : this of course 
he denied, but ten minutes afterwards indi- 
rectly repeated it, and then left. We expe- 
rienced none of those offers of assistance, 
provisions, or other accommodations, which we 



XIV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 221 

had been always in the habit of receiving from 
the other Sheikhs in Oman, his object with- 
out doubt being to drive us out of the town as 
soon as he could ; and all I saw and heard 
gave me little reason to delay obliging him in 
that respect. The Wahhabis had been crowd- 
ing around us in great numbers, and seemed 
only waiting for some pretext to commence 
an affray. On these emergencies I always 
adopt one plan, which is, to remove every 
weapon from the reach of those who were 
with me. Whitelock and myself alone were 
armed, and we knew too well the conse- 
quences that would accrue from any rash use 
of weapons, to encounter such a risk. The 
men were in general small, and had no other 
clothes than a cloth round their waist. Their 
complexion was very dark, and they wore 
their hair long. It was not until some time 
afterwards that I discovered they were a party 
under Sayyid ibn Mutluk, whose future pro- 
ceedings and subsequent defeat I have given 
in my account of Bedib. Our situation was 
therefore very precarious, the only chance of 
escape depending pn our firmness and con- 
duct, for they were then marching to attack 



222 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

a part of the Imam's dominions, and he was 
the only protection we had. 

Old 'Ali, who had an awful opinion of our 
new acquaintances, declared that he could 
not sleep ; that they were prowling about the 
tent, and we should inevitably be robbed or 
murdered before the morning. My inter- 
preter, a Persian, six feet high, and stout in 
proportion, was so perfectly unmanned by his 
fears, that he went into fits. There was some 
ground for his fears, as I believe the Wah- 
habis have a more thorough detestation of the 
Persians, as sectaries of 'Ali, than any other 
class of Mussulmans. When the Sheikh 
came and presented me with the letter for the 
Imam, I knew it would be vain to make any 
further effort to shake his resolution, and 
therefore did not attempt it ; in the mean 
time news having spread far and near that 
two Englishmen, with a box " of dollars," 
but in reality containing only the few clothes 
that we carried with us, had halted in 
the town. The Wahhabis and other tribes 
had met in deliberation, while the lower 
classes of the townsfolk were creating noise 
and confusion. The Sheikh either had not 



XIV. ] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 223 

the shadow of any influence, or was afraid 
to exercise it, and his followers evidently 
wished to share in the plunder. It was 
time to act. I called 'Ali on one side, told 
him to make neither noise nor confusion, but 
to collect the camels without delay. In the 
mean time we had packed up the tent, the 
crowd increasing every minute; the camels 
were ready, and we mounted on them. A 
leader, or some trifling incident, was now only 
wanting to furnish them with a pretext for an 
onset. They followed us with hisses and various 
other noises, until we got sufficiently clear to 
push briskly forward ; and, beyond a few stones 
being thrown, we reached the outskirts of the 
town without further molestation. I had often 
before heard of the inhospitable character of 
the inhabitants of this place. The neighbour- 
ing Arabs observe that to enter Obri a man 
must either go armed to the teeth, or as a 
beggar with a cloth, and that not of decent 
quality, round his waist. Thus for a second 
time end our hopes of reaching Der'ayyah 
from this quarter; I did not however yet 
despair, but determined to push on for Sib, 
embark there, and endeavour, from the port of 



224 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

Schinas, to cross over to Bireimah. I had 
letters to the Wahhabi chief, and if I could 
only reach him, I had little doubt but that I 
might in safety continue on to the former 
town. 

Obri is one of the largest and most popu- 
lous towns in Oman. Few of its inhabitants, 
who are of the Yaknah tribe, engage in mer- 
cantile pursuits of any kind, confining their 
bartering to the mere necessaries of life, and 
living on the produce of their date groves and 
corn fields. Agricultural pursuits have in 
other parts of the world a tendency to hu- 
manize and soften the character of a people. 
There they produce no such effects, and 
where the husbandman endeavours, by an 
assumed ferocity, to stifle or suppress any 
softer feeling. I imagine they are urged to 
this by a desire, when they mix with their 
Bedowin neighbours, to make up by such 
display, for the low estimation in which that 
people not unfrequently regard all those who 
follow occupations more peaceful than their 
own. 

Indigo, dates, and sugar are their exports, 
and rice; spices, and white cotton cloth, sent 



XIV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 225 

to be dyed blue, the imports. We passed 
several enclosures of barley, and towards 
evening halted near our former encampment 
at the village of Ayal. 

Contrary to Ali's expectations, we got 
through the night minus only a few trifling 
articles, which we deserved to lose, because 
they were left without the tent. 

March l^th. Nearly the whole of the vil- 
lage, at the instigation of Ali, watched 
around us last night. I had killed three or 
four sheep for them, and, either from being 
too intent on their supper, or from some other 
cause, a gun, sword, and a few other things 
were purloined. In our present mode of tra- 
velling we could ill spare those articles, and 
I accordingly represented the matter to the 
Sheikh, and he to the elders of the town. 
After making a great noise, and a furious 
debate, it was decided the articles should be 
restored. 

When this was resolved on, in order, it 
would appear, to avert the disgrace and con- 
sequent punishment of the offender, who, I 
have reason to suppose, was a near relation 
of the Sheikh's, the latter issued directions 

VOL. I. Q 



220 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

that the articles stolen should be deposited, in 
the space of half an hour, in a certain obscure 
part of the grove ; and there they were found 
at the expiration of the appointed time. 



XV. j TRAVELS IN OMAN. 227 



CHAPTER XV. 

Advice to travellers — Honesty of the Bedowins — Seyyid Hildl— 
Advises the Author to abandon his enterjwise — Sohar — Its 
commercial importance — Population — Trade — Ahmed ibn 
Aisan — Defeated by the Wahhdbis — His character — Revenue 
— Harbours of Oman — Asses — Schinas — Villages — Date 
Groves — Dibah — Description of the Country — Bireimah — 
Water— Milk Bush — Goats — Inhabitants. 

In a country where the natives are disposed 
to be hostile, a traveller, if he can possibly 
avoid it, will do well not to return by his 
former road. In the first instance he will 
most probably have passed before they re- 
cover from the effects of their surprise, but 
afterwards he naturally becomes the subject 
of much conversation and inquiry, and on 
his return, if disposed for mischief, they look 
out for him. The events of to-day and yes- 
terday, in addition to many others which oc- 

q 2 



228 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

curred previously, convince me of the pro- 
priety of these remarks. 

On our way to Obri we passed through 
I nan without exciting more attention than a 
gaze of astonishment; but the intelligence of 
our return had preceded us, and, in conse- 
quence, we were received at the entrance of, 
and followed through the town, by a mob of 
young men and children, who hooted and 
pelted us through it. The Sheikh too, who 
was formerly all civility, now would not suf- 
fer us to proceed without a present, in addi- 
tion to the one I had already given him for 
his trouble ; nor had I any other alternative, 
much to my anno} 7 ance, than to submit. It is, 
however, worthy of remark that, with the ex- 
ception of the few articles at Obri, this was 
the first and only time I have lost anything 
by petty theft or open extortion in Oman. 

On the afternoon of March 19th we again 
reached Suweik, where Seyyid Hilal received 
us with all his former kindness. He was 
much amused, but no way surprised to hear 
of our reception at Obri, and his only asto- 
nishment appeared to be that we escaped so 



XV. j TRAVELS IN OMAN. 229 

well. I found, that having received intelli- 
gence of the forward movement of the Wah- 
habis, he had sent a messenger to recall us, 
but who missed, and passed us on the road. 

The Sheikh gave me no encouragement to 
persevere in my attempt to reach Bireimah. 

" However," said he, " if you are desirous 
of trying the only remaining chance, I will 
furnish a good boat to convey you to Schinas, 
and instruct the Sheikh there to forward you 
on, with a guard, to Bireimah." 

On the 22nd we therefore embarked for 
that port, and reached it on the afternoon of 
the 25th. The coast between these two 
points presents such a number of towns and 
villages (all of which will be seen on the 
map), that I question if it is not among the 
most populous in the world. The principal, 
and by far the largest of these is Sohar. 

In point of commercial importance, Sohar 
ranks next to Maskat. It has about forty 
large bagalas belonging to it, and maintains 
a considerable trade with Persia on the one 
hand, and India on the other. The number 
of inhabitants is estimated at nine thousand ; 
but some of these, residing in contiguous 



230 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

hamlets, are included in the estimate. Sohar 
is an aneient town : from its ports the 
Arabian ships formerly took their departure 
for China. I find mention made of it in 
several early authors. To the Portugueze, 
under the name of Soar, it was well known. 
In 1829, during the minority of Ahmed Jbn 
Aisan, the present Sheikh of this town, the 
Imam possessed himself of the government of 
his district, and, as it is generally thought, 
intended to retain it, but his design was de- 
feated by the young Sheikh, who, by stra- 
tagem, obtained possession of the fort, and 
has since successfully held it against several 
attempts of the Imam to dislodge him. 
Peace has been subsequently declared be- 
tween them; but as the territories of this 
chief are prolonged in a narrow strip, in a 
south-east direction, from Sohar to Rostak, 
through the very heart of the Imam's domi- 
nions, Seyyid S'aid, it is thought, still views 
him with a jealous eye, and would seize with 
avidity any opportunity which might present 
itself to dispossess him. The government of 
this district is mild and regular, and similar 
in its elements to that of Maskat; but the 



XV.j TRAVELS IN OMAN. 231 

character of its ruler is bold, reckless, and 
inconsistent. The Imam, in speaking of him, 
always styles him the Madman. 

There are about twenty families of Jews 
at Sohar, who have a small synagogue. They 
are of the same class as those of Yemen, and, 
like them, subsist by lending money at in- 
terest to the people. The Arabs call them 
" Vad Sarah," the " Children of Sarah," but 
hold them in great abhorrence. Limes are 
dried here, and exported in large quantities 
to the Persian Gulf. 

At the period of my visit the Sheikh was 
engaged in hostilities with the Wahhabis, who 
plundered several of his towns, and even 
compelled him to shut himself up in his fort 
at Sohar. The Imam, desirous of seeing his 
power humbled, would neither interfere nor 
render any assistance ; but had his followers 
possessed resolution equal to that of their 
chief, the contest would very soon have been 
decided. The inhabitants of the sea-coast 
constitute very indifferent warriors, and hav- 
ing made a dash, on their first appearance, 
into the very centre of the enemy's forces, he 
found himself deserted by the greater number 



232 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

of his troops, who were principally composed 
of this class, and only succeeded in making 
his escape by the most reckless gallantry : 
this has since taught him more caution. 

It is thought Sheikh Hilal aspires to the 
sovereignty of Oman. Many of the Biazi sect, 
for reasons which I have given in another 
place, are disposed to regard their present 
Imam as one who has fallen away from the 
true faith, and Ahmed Aisan trims his sails 
accordingly. He affects great sanctity, and 
being endued with the gift of tears, is seen to 
remain without speaking to any one, weeping 
for hours. He also aspires to the spirit of 
prophecy ; and flimsy enough as is the veil, 
has succeeded in creating among many with 
whom I have conversed the precise feeling 
he has been desirous to create. 

Ahmed ibn Aisan 's revenue is derived from 
the port of Sohar, which yields him annually 
ten thousand dollars. He also exacts a duty 
of five thousand dollars from the town of 
Rostak ; but this is not more than one half 
of the aggregate sum collected by Sayyid 
S'aid, when in possession of the country,, 
because Ahmed remitted a moiety as a con- 



XV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 233 

sideration for their acknowledging his au- 
thority. 

From Maskat to Schinas the coast of 
Oman is remarkably destitute of harbours, 
the only shelter the whole line affords being 
some narrow salt water creeks, or khores, as 
they are styled by the Arabs, which have only 
a sufficient depth of water to admit vessels of 
two feet draught. The inhabitants in conse- 
quence possess few boats of larger size than 
can be accommodated within them, or hauled 
upon the beach, which, upon the appearance 
of a north-wester, they most commonly do. 
In the date season they follow the same plan 
until they are freighted, and again launched 
for the purpose of proceeding to their desti- 
nation. But the communication with the 
different ports seems more general by land 
than by water. For this purpose asses and 
camels are put in requisition ; more generally 
the former. The price of a good ass is from 
fifteen to thirty dollars : their pace is con- 
siderably faster than that of a camel's, the 
latter being two miles and three quarters, and 
the former three miles and a half an hour : it 
is a short, quick trot, which they maintain 



234 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

throughout the greater part of the day. The 
asses of Oman are nearly equal to those of 
Bahrain, and a considerable number are an- 
nually shipped off to the Isle of France. 

Schinas is but a small town, with a fort 
and a shallow lagoon, affording anchorage 
for small boats. It is said to yield to the 
Imam an annual revenue of three thousand 
dollars ; but that is not more than is sufficient 
to defray its expenses. During the expedi- 
tion to Ras el Kha'imah, in 1809, our force, in 
an attack on the fort, lost several men. Its in- 
habitants that year had thrown off the Imam's 
yoke, and, connected with the pirates, infested 
the entrance of the Gulf for some months. 
But soon after Ras el Kha'imah fell they 
returned to his rule, and its fort admitted 
a party of Beluches soldiers, whom he retains 
in his pay. I found the Sheikh absent, 
and from those he left in charge we could 
obtain neither answers to our questions 
nor common civility. However, upon my 
threatening to leave their port, and represent 
our reception to the Imam, they became 
alarmed, and towards the evening I was en- 
abled, by their assistance, to forward the 



XV 



J TRAVELS IN OMAN. 235 



Imam's letter to Sayyid ibn Mutluk, the 
Wahhabi chief, who, I had every reason to 
believe, was still at Bire'imah : with it I also 
sent a note, requesting that, if he were willing 
to receive me, he would, as the intermediate 
country was in a very unsettled state, send a 
small force to conduct the party from the 
sea-coast to his encampment. I employed 
the time which elapsed after the despatch of 
our letters in collecting information of, and 
examining, as far as my means enabled me, 
the surrounding country, of which I shall now 
give some description. 

There is such an universal sameness in the 
common features of this part of Oman, that 
it would be unnecessary and tedious to enter 
on minute details ; I shall therefore give a 
general outline of the country and its inha- 
bitants, commencing with the sea-coast. 

From Schinas to Ras Mussendon, the 
north-east extremity of Arabia, the Maceto 
and Acabo of the Greeks, and the Ras el 
Jebel, or cape of the hills of the Arabs, the 
general direction of the coast is N. -J- E. ; and 
throughout the whole distance it is indented 
with deep bays, coves, and inlets, which be- 



236 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

come more numerous and more irregular in 
their outline as they approach the Cape. 
This indentation is also continued on the 
western side of the promontory, and a narrow 
ridge, five hundred yards in width, is all that 
separates Kasab Bay on one side, and Goobut 
Gure'fyah on the other. There are probably 
few parts of the world presenting an outline 
so tortuous and irregular as the space in- 
cluded between this isthmus and the Cape. 

A succession of villages and date-groves 
extend from Schinas to Dibha, where the 
maritime plain (Batna of the Map) com- 
mences. At Dibha the Imam has a fort, 
and he formerly drew from the village a small 
annual revenue of four thousand dollars. 
Water, vegetables, and cattle, all good in 
their several kinds, may be obtained here. 
It has a few boats, which are employed in 
bringing grain from the Persian shore. The 
intermediate parts of Khorfakan and Khor 
Kulba are similar in size and in the produc- 
tions they afford to Dibha. 

From Dibha to the northward, a range of 
mountains rise up directly from the sea, ex- 
hibiting in many places the most romantic 



XV. J TRAVELS IN OMAN. 237 

aspect. The only beach met with is at the 
extremity of the coves, where a small portion 
of sand or shing, composed of broken coral 
or shells, is occasionally found, thrown up by 
the force of the wind and waves. From the 
main ridge of mountains, the average height 
of which is about two thousand five hundred 
feet, nearly midway between the eastern 
and western shore of the promontory, seve- 
ral lateral valleys extend towards the sea. 
Bireimah may be approached from Schinas 
by two of these, Wadi Khor and Wadi Uttar. 
From Fidgira another road leads across 
the ridge to Sharga, which is two and a half 
days distant. A few date-groves are reared 
near the banks of the rivulets, which wind 
along their beds ; but little else is cultivated, 
and the line of oases, extending from Obri 
to Bireimah, forms the boundary of the cul- 
tivation in that part of Oman. From thence 
to the shores of the Persian Gulf the whole 
is an arid and sandy waste. Two days' jour- 
ney from Schinas, a few miles to the south- 
ward of Wadi Uttar, on the road to Bireimah, 
there is a collection of thirty hamlets, called 



238 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH 

Beldan Beni Chab, from the name of the 
tribe who occupy them. They are in num- 
ber about one thousand five hundred, and 
though Wahhabis, are remarkable for the 
protection which is afforded by them to all 
who flee there, be their crimes or their faith 
what they may. 

Bearing south from this small district 
stands the town of Bireimah, similar in its 
extent and general features to Bedi'ah : it 
possesses several hamlets, and is watered by 
as many streams. There is a fort here, 
mounting a few small guns, belonging to the 
Ghafari tribe, who profess the Wahhabi 
tenets, and refuse to acknowledge the au- 
thority of the Imam. The usual number of 
inhabitants is estimated at two thousand, but, 
owing to the late influx of the Wahhabis, 
there were at this season nearly treble that 
number collected within its precincts. The 
inhabitants bear the character of being 
equally wild, and averse to the visits of 
strangers with those of Obri. Although the 
heat of the summer season is very great, 
the climate of Bireimah is considered far 



XV.J TRAVELS IN OMAN. '239 

superior to any part of Oman, and almost 
equal to that of Nejd, which is everywhere 
extolled as the finest in Arabia. 

From Dibha to Ras Mussendon, together 
with that extent of hilly country included 
within the bifurcation of the main range and 
the sea, the whole space appears to be bar- 
ren, and generally destitute of water. That 
obtained near the sea-coast is indifferent and 
brackish; and the lonely clumps of palms, 
which occasionally peep forth from some se- 
cluded nook or hollow, when contrasted with 
the bleak and sombre appearance of the 
hills, afford, by their verdant hue, a pleasing 
contrast. A scanty sprinkling of grass in 
the sandy beds of the valleys, and a few 
aromatic herbs and shrubs peculiar to the 
Desert, furnish but indifferent pasturage to 
the numerous flocks of goats which are 
everywhere met with. The Euphorbia Tiruc- 
calla, or milk bush, is also found here, grow- 
ing out of the fissures of the rock. Notwith- 
standing the peculiarly acrid nature of the 
juice of its leaves, which is sufficient to ex- 
coriate any part of the skin on which it may 
be placed, the goats and camels feed thereon 



240 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

with impunity. Sheep are scarce. Both roam 
over the rocks without an attendant, yet they 
are taught to come at call, when it is neces- 
sary to milk them. The distance to which 
their owners will make themselves heard on 
these occasions is very great, and they can 
maintain, without difficulty, a distinct con- 
versation across the coves, some of which are 
half a mile in breadth. 

The whole of this district is peopled by a 
race, who speak a dialect differing from that 
of the tribes in other parts of Oman. They 
are also remarkable for their extraordinary 
attachment to their native wilds, and beyond 
hiring themselves out for a few months in the 
date harvest, on the Batna coast, and an oc- 
casional visit to the Island of Larak, where a 
small party of them reside to catch and cure 
fish, they rarely quit their country. They 
likewise keep aloof from all their neighbours, 
and I have often inquired for them in the 
town without success. Before the visit of 
the surveying vessels they had never seen 
an European, and they testified as much 
surprise at the sight of looking-glasses, 
watches, and other objects of curiosity, as 



XV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 241 

could have been exhibited by the veriest 
savage of New Holland. They are mostly 
very poor, wearing no other covering than a 
narrow cloth round their waist, which barely 
serves the purposes of decency. Their habi- 
tations are often small circular huts, con- 
structed of loose stones, about four feet high, 
and usually erected on the strip of sea-beach 
already mentioned. Other dwellings are 
found within the space sheltered by some 
impending rock, the sides and front of which 
are built up in those spots which require it, 
but the greater number reside in caves and 
hollows. On one occasion when the survey- 
ing vessel drifted close to the shore, and it 
was feared she would ground, the hills, 
which, but a few minutes before, were with- 
out a solitary individual, instantly became 
covered with armed men, who had crawled 
forth from their caves to share in the expected 
plunder. 

Their principal food is dates and salt fish, 
rice being nearly unknown to them, but they 
obtain, occasionally, a small supply of barley 
and wheat. It has been asserted that this 
people are of a fairer complexion, and speak 

VOL. I. K 



242 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

a language distinct from the other inhabit- 
ants of the province ; but both opinions are 
incorrect. Those I met with were of a darker 
hue than the common race of Arabs, and 
their language differs no more from that used 
in Oman, than does the dialect of Yemen 
from that of the Hejas. A colony of Per- 
sians formerly settled in Kumza, and also in 
Kasab Bay, where their descendants still 
remain, and those who have seen them may 
have originated the supposition. 

The number of those who inhabit this 
rocky wilderness is very considerable, — not 
less, as far as I could estimate, than fifteen 
thousand souls. Both the eastern and 
western shores are lined with villages. The 
Sheikh of Kasab can muster five thousand 
men under his government: the Sheikh of 
Bokh has nearly two thousand, and the 
chiefs of the other towns in equal proportion. 
They rear a small quantity of poultry within 
their dwellings, including a few ducks, which 
I never recollect seeing in any other part of 
Arabia. 



XVI. 1 TRAVELS IN OMAN. 243 



CHAPTER XVI. 

Maritime Robbers —Forbearance of the Indian Government — 
Instructions to our Cruisers — Audacity of the Pirates — Anec- 
dote — Capture of the Sylph — Massacre — Attack upon the Mi- 
nerva—Captain attempts to blow up his Vessel — Crew offered 
up as a Sacrifice to the Prophet— Singular Ceremonies — Na- 
tional traits of Character — Respect for Women — Resolute 
bravery— Contempt of Death — Expedition against the Pirates 
— Mohammed AH — Pirate Vessels— Reparation of Losses — 
Author engaged in Surveying the Arabian Coast— Additions 
to Geographical Knowledge— Danger of withdrawing our 
Squadron— Destruction of a Piratical Boat — Transportation 
of her Commander— Population — Tribes — Authority of Chiefs 
— Simplicity of their Domestic Habits. 

It remains to notice the pirates, a race hi- 
therto but little known, but whose power and 
influence was long felt by, and is still inti- 
mately connected with the political condition 
of the tribes in this part of Arabia. They 
occupy a part of the coast within the 
Persian Gulf comprehended between the 
mountain range and the sea-shore, and ex- 
tending in that direction from Kasab to the 

r2 



244 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

Island of Bahrein, — a distance of three hun- 
dred and fifty miles. On the map, this portion 
bears the designation of the Pirate Coast. 

The history of these maritime robbers may 
be traced back to a very remote period. Ibn 
Haukal, in his version of the Koran, informs 
us that before the deliverance of the children 
of Israel from Egyptian bondage, the subjects 
of a pirate monarch in these parts seized on 
every valuable ship which passed. The pos- 
session of a few ports within and near the 
entrance of the Persian Gulf, where it is not 
more than thirty miles across, enabled them 
to perceive and sally out on all passing ves- 
sels. Nor were their depredations confined 
to this vicinity alone ; the whole southern 
frontier of Arabia, and the northern portion 
of India, were not exempted from their ra- 
vages. To the Portuguese during their brief 
career in India, they proved quite as trouble- 
some as they did in the latter part of the 
eighteenth century to ourselves. 

With these robbers the Imams of Maskat 
have been repeatedly at war. In 1805, 
Sayyid Sultan, uncle of the present Prince, 
encountered them near Lingar, and, after a 



XVI. j TRAVELS IN OMAN. 245 

desperate engagement, was slain. Sayyid 
S'aid has aided us in all our attempts to effect 
their extirpation. 

It is needless now to inquire into the mo- 
tives which then induced our Indian govern- 
ment so long tamely to suffer the repeated 
depredations of these marauders. The cause 
may, perhaps, be attributed to the brawls in 
which we were then entangled with the va- 
rious powers in India. But, be that as it 
may, it is very certain that the Indian navy, 
constituting a force especially established and 
maintained for the suppression of piracy, 
received instructions, in no instance, to be- 
come the aggressors, but merely to repel any 
attack which was made on them. The fol- 
lowing anecdote will serve to illustrate the 
singular relation which then existed between 
us. 

Two Johasmi vessels, lying in Bushir* 
Roads in the Persian Gulf, stated to the 
British resident at that place that they were 
in want of gunpowder, and he, in accordance 
with his instructions from the Bombay go- 
vernment, to keep on pacific terms with them, 
directed a cruiser then lying in the harbour 

* Properly Abu-sher. 



*2i6 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

to supply the quantity they required. Hardly 
had they received it, than, with an audacity 
which could only be paralleled by the weak- 
ness which had furnished them with the 
means, they commenced an attack upon the 
identical vessel, which had treasure on board, 
as she lay at anchor ; but, under the charge of 
a gallant young officer (whose name I regret 
being unable to supply), she cut her cable, 
and, after a brave defence, succeeded in beat- 
ing them off. 

I will add two other instances, which ex- 
hibit their mode of proceeding when success- 
ful in capturing a vessel : — 

In 1808, the Sylph, a small ship of only 
one hundred tons, proceeding with the Per- 
sian Secretary from Bombay to Bushir, was 
attacked, off the island of Kenn, by two large 
bagalas, each having a crew of upwards of 
two hundred men. After a short but despe- 
rate conflict, the vessel was carried, and the 
Arabs then commenced a deliberate massacre 
of the survivors. The work of death, how- 
ever, was fortunately arrested by the timely 
appearance of His Majesty's ship Nereid, 
whose captain, perceiving how affairs stood, 
immediately fired into, and sunk the baga- 



XVI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 247 

14s, with every soul on board. The other 
case, out of many which are before me, ex- 
hibits in its detail a still more harrowing and 
revolting picture of savage barbarity. 

The Minerva, a merchant ship, proceed- 
ing to Bushir, fell in with a large fleet at 
nearly the same spot, and after a running 
fight of two days, was carried, according to 
their usual custom, by boarding. The com- 
mander, Captain Hopegood, with the full 
knowledge of the cruel fate which then awaited 
him, attempted to blow the vessel up, but 
unfortunately he failed, and the slaughter 
of the victims commenced. The ship w r as 
first purified with water, and perfumes, and 
this being accomplished, the different indi- 
viduals were bound and brought forward 
singly to the gangway, where one of the 
pirates cut their throats, with the excla- 
mation they use in slaying cattle, " Alia 
Akbar" (God is great). They were in fact 
considered as a propitiatory sacrifice to their 
prophet. As if to show that even these 
lawless wretches retained some of those 
striking peculiarities of national character, 
which have rendered the Arab an anomaly in 



248 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

the history of savage nations, some nobler 
traits were mixed with their unrelenting fero- 
city. The persons and the virtue of females 
were always respected, and the contrary be- 
haviour would have brought on them the 
deepest disgrace and contempt with their 
own tribes. An unresisting Mohammedan 
victim, after being stripped and plundered, 
they very generally spared ; but death, or the 
immediate profession of their creed, awaited 
the unbeliever. And it is further due to them 
to acknowledge, that it was only when their 
vengeance became excited by a defence which 
cost the lives of many of their companions, 
that they had recourse to the remorseless 
measures which I have here described. 

The most undaunted bravery was certainly 
theirs : if taken, they submitted with resigna- 
tion to the fate they inflicted on others; and 
when they fell into the hands of the Per- 
sians, or other nations by which they are sur- 
rounded, they were never spared. After the 
destruction of one of their forts, several of 
them were brought on board our ships as 
prisoners. While uncertain of their fate, and 
before their wounds were dressed, it was 



XVI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. '24V 

asked what treatment they anticipated — " The 
same immediate death as we should have in- 
flicted on you, had your fortune been ours," 
was the stern and characteristic reply. 

Few merchant vessels, without the convoy 
of a ship of war, would now venture to sail 
between India and the Persian Gulf, while 
the native boats became subjected to almost 
certain interception and plunder. The trade 
in which great numbers of the latter were 
employed became almost suspended, and the 
patience or forbearance of Government Mas 
at length exhausted. 

In 1809, an expedition under Captain 
Wainwright, in His Majesty's ship Chiffonne, 
several vessels in the Indian navy, and 
a detachment of the Bombay army under 
Colonel Smith, was sent against them. Their 
principal stronghold, Ras el Khaimah, was 
stormed and taken, and fifty of their largest 
vessels burnt or destroyed. Le'it, on the 
island of Kishm, and several other ports, 
were reduced ; and though this had the effect 
of checking them for a time, they soon re- 
built these ports, and gradually returned to 
their old practices. 



250 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

About this period the success of Mohammed 
Ali's army in Arabia, and eventually the fall 
of their capital Der'yyah, compelled a great 
number of Wahhabis to fly to the sea-coast, 
where the several tribes had already embraced 
the faith of their founder. To such restless, 
turbulent, and daring spirits, the roving and 
adventurous life of a pirate held forth every 
charm. It was but transferring the scene of 
a Bedowin's individual hostility to the rest of 
mankind, from a desert of sand to a waste 
of waters ; and such numbers consequently 
joined them that their force soon became 
truly formidable. 

Embarking from their ports in the southern 
part of the Persian Gulf, in large and swift- 
sailing vessels, of from two hundred to four 
hundred tons, of which it is estimated they had 
then more than a hundred, and sailing toge- 
ther in large fleets, they kept the whole coast 
of Arabia, the entrance to the Red Sea, and 
the northern shores of India, in a state of 
constant excitement and alarm. Many and 
desperate were the conflicts which occurred 
at different periods between them and the 
vessels of the Indian navy, who now pursued 



XVI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 251 

a very different line of conduct to what they 
had done before. Though often repulsed or 
defeated, and even in one instance stormed 
with success in their principal strongholds, 
yet they never appeared to lose either energy 
or spirit for any considerable period. New 
vessels were built or purchased, other forts 
erected, and after a brief interval they again 
renewed their outrages. 

Events connected with our operations in 
India against the Mahrattas occupied the 
attention and resources of Government so 
completely, that troops could not, without dif- 
ficulty, for some time, be spared to punish 
them ; but no sooner were these concluded, 
than their complete extermination was re- 
solved on. The details of the expedition in 
1819, are already too well known to render it 
necessary for me to describe them. I shall 
merely observe, that when Ras el Khaimah, 
Sharja, and the other ports again fell into our 
hands, all their boats were burnt or sold, and 
their forts razed to the ground. Certain infor- 
mation was likewise obtained that their fleets 
had often escaped the vigilance of our cruisers, 
by taking refuge in the numerous coves with 



252 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

which this part of the coast of Arabia is in- 
dented, and into which the fear of unknown 
dangers prevented our vessels from following 
them. When this was communicated to the 
Indian Government, it was at once resolved 
that a minute examination should be made of 
them. 

Being employed in this investigation for a 
considerable period, I had the most favour- 
able opportunities of collecting the informa- 
tion here detailed. 

To the expedition science is indebted for 
those magnificent surveys of the Persian and 
Arabian Gulfs. Notwithstanding the diffi- 
culties and privations they encountered from 
the perilous nature of the navigation, the 
jealous and hostile character of the natives, 
and the still more formidable effects of cli- 
mate, the heat of which at certain seasons is 
almost insupportable, the surveying vessels 
successfully persevered. The result was so 
satisfactory, not only in adding to our stock of 
geographical knowledge, but in furnishing the 
Government with a full account of the several 
tribes, their condition and resources, that it 
was subsequently resolved to examine in a 



XVI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 253 

similar manner the whole coast of the Persian 
Gulf. To confine ourselves, however, to this 
portion, it was wisely foreseen that, with 
pirates, as with other thieves, the most 
effectual way to disperse them was to lay 
open their haunts. So long as these remained 
unknown to us, a feeling of imaginary or real 
security would induce them to follow their 
former practices ; but the circumstance of 
English ships " writing down" their coast, to 
use their own descriptive expression, was 
alone enough to give them an idea that we 
should possess a perfect knowledge of it. 

The result has hitherto justified the antici- 
pation, for the survey was no sooner com- 
pleted, and a strict system of surveillance 
established, than their appliances and re- 
sources became, as a measure of necessity, 
turned from piratical to commercial pursuits. 
Petty quarrels between the boats of rival 
tribes still occur occasionally ; but nearly the 
whole of their vessels now trade in the Persian 
Gulf, peaceably from port to port, and from 
thence to India or the Red Sea. It may in- 
deed be questioned whether, from the very 
early period when commerce first dawned, and 



254 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

navigation, in the hands of the Phoenicians, 
made its infant efforts in the Indian seas, if in 
this part of Arabia an equal protection has 
been afforded to the bark of the merchant 
when sailing along its shores. 

There is, however, reason to believe such 
security will exist no longer than we main- 
tain our present policy towards the Arab 
chiefs. If our naval squadron was withdrawn 
from the Gulf for a single season, they would 
very soon make head again. All their towns 
have been rebuilt, and are perhaps more ex- 
tensive than before ; and when the treaty of 
1819, by which they stipulated to refrain from 
fighting with each other by sea, had in 1835 
expired, they addressed the Indian Govern- 
ment to be permitted to renew their ancient 
mode of settling differences, many of which 
during that period had arisen between them. 
As this was at once known to be merely a 
pretext for renewing their outrages on their 
more peaceful neighbours, it was of course 
refused them. But a few months before, a 
piratical boat fitted out by the Beni As tribe, 
seized and plundered an Indian vessel pro- 
ceeding to Bushir, but was encountered 



XVI. J TRAVELS IN OMAN. 25fj 

some days afterwards by the Honorable Com- 
pany's sloop of war, Elphinstone. Nowise 
daunted, the pirates awaited her approach, 
prepared for boarding ; and it was not until 
they received a broadside of round and 
grape from the sloop's 32-pounders through 
their flimsy sides, that they became aware 
of the power of the foe they had defied. 
As they were but a few yards from each 
other, the slaughter was very great. The 
commander of the Arab vessel was subse- 
quently taken to India, tried there in the 
Supreme Court, and sentenced to fourteen 
years' transportation. The first part of this 
affair was intelligible enough to the several 
tribes along the coast, for we had no repe- 
tition of such attempts ; but the sentence, 
which w T as carried into effect, puzzled them 
sorely ; and during my travels I was repeat- 
edly warned not to venture near to or within 
the territories of this tribe, as they had 
threatened to retaliate, by boiling in oil, the 
first European they could lay hands on. 

Here, as in other parts of Arabia, I have 
found great difficulty in ascertaining the 
amount of the population. Little reliance 



256 TRAVELS IN OMaN. [CH. 

can be placed on the testimony of the chiefs, 
who are ever desirous of enhancing the power 
of their own, and depreciating that of other 
tribes ; while, from their maritime pursuits, 
and their connexion with the pearl fishery, 
the amount of actual residents is constantly 
fluctuating. The number of their huts af- 
fords no surer guide, for, being built of the 
branches of the date palm with little trouble, 
when old and damaged by the wind, they are 
often deserted and left standing. The mean 
of my several inquiries induces me to fix 
their number at twenty thousand, exclusive 
of women and children. The principal tribes 
are the Johasmi, Menasir, Beni As, and 
Manama : the former is the most powerful. 
They not only possess all the chief ports of 
the Arabian coast, but have also established 
themselves on the Persian shore, where they 
have several large towns and flourishing vil- 
lages. Their name is derived from a Saint 
Johasmi, who resided on a low tongue of land, 
and the tents of his followers, which were 
pitched around, gave the name of Ras el Khai- 
mah, or " Cape of Tents," to the promontory 
on which a town bearing the same designation 



XVI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 257 

was subsequently erected. The Johasmis 
very soon after its promulgation embraced 
the tenets of the Wahhabis, with whom 
they were always in strict alliance, and to this 
cause we are to attribute the bitter hatred of 
the Princes of Oman. Their present chief is 
considered to be wily and politic. In their 
peculiar mode of warfare he possesses great 
abilities, but is otherwise deficient in that 
boldness and frankness which characterises 
the Arab. His capital, Ras el Khaimah, was 
wholly dismantled in 1819, but is now rebuilt, 
and, perhaps, of greater magnitude, and more 
populous than before. If our ships, there- 
fore, were not kept in constant communica- 
tion with him, there is little doubt, both from 
his ability and disposition, that he would oc- 
casion us some trouble. 

The tribe next in importance to the Jo- 
hasmi is that of Beni As. Its late Sheikh, 
Tanun, was an enterprising character, who 
possessed considerable power, and maintained 
a regular force of four hundred men, very well 
armed and equipped. Small as this number 
may appear, it was sufficient to give him con- 
siderable influence over his rivals, although 

vol. i. s 



258 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

the number of troops he could otherwise bring 
into the field was estimated at four thousand 
only. When the Imam, in 1829, undertook 
an expedition against the Island of Bahrein, 
he endeavoured, by the payment of a con- 
siderable sum of money, to secure the co- 
operation of Tanun ; but when the hour of 
attack arrived, his lukewarmness was so ap- 
parent, that it is to this day believed he also 
received a bribe from the other side. 

The surveying vessels, in 1828, received 
much attention from this chief, who was very 
fond, during their intercourse with him, of 
engaging in the several games with which 
the officers and men passed away their lei- 
sure hours, and equally happy if they would 
share in those of his own people. On these 
occasions the most perfect good humour ex- 
isted. One day, an officer had been matched 
to run on foot against Tanun, who was in 
person rather short, but very active, and with 
abundant vivacity, and love of amusement. 
For some time after they had started the 
officer held the lead, but finding, as he ap- 
proached the goal, that the longer-winded 
little Sheikh was about to pass him, he threw 



XVI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 259 

himself headlong before his path. Over flew 
Tanun, amidst shouts of laughter from his 
tribe; but, nowise disconcerted or annoyed, 
the Sheikh arose, and, after joining most 
heartily in their mirth, congratulated his op- 
ponent on the success of his stratagem. In 
wrestling, leaping, and other athletic exer- 
cises, his Arabs generally were equally 
matched with, and, not unfrequently, had a 
decided advantage over our Europeans. 

The authority exercised by these chiefs dif- 
fers but little from that of the Sheikh govern- 
ment on which I have hereinafter touched. 
From the fierce and turbulent character of 
those they govern, their power is necessarily 
of a somewhat despotic nature, yet, in adjust- 
ing broils, and in matters connected with the 
general interest of the tribe, the opinion of 
their old men has great weight. The direct 
interference of the Sheikh is, in fact, neither 
sought nor often called for ; and the tribe is 
ruled without the aid of frequent punish- 
ments ; for, when its relations are so simple 
and so well understood as in Arabia, offences 
against the good order of society rarely occur. 
In their diet and mode of living these chiefs 



260 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

preserve the same simplicity as the Bedowin 
Sheikhs ; a fact the more extraordinary, since 
they are not in the same manner shut up in 
a desert, but in constant communication with 
Indians, Persians, &c, and having more 
wealth and power, would experience no diffi- 
culty in supplying themselves with foreign 
luxuries. It follows then, that this self-denial, 
whilst retaining the national manners, must 
be considered as purely voluntary. 

While cruising on this coast in 1827, I was 
proceeding with dispatches to the Sheikh of 
Sharja, Sultan Ibn Suggar, when a strong 
breeze unexpectedly set in, and raised so 
heavy a swell on the bar, that our boat, in 
attempting to cross it, was capsized. This 
occurred some distance from the land, but, 
all being good swimmers, we reached it with- 
out much difficulty, and with no other incon- 
venience than a thorough drenching. After 
landing, the gale increased, and for three 
days we could not attempt to put off to the 
vessel. I had then some opportunity of stu- 
dying the private character of the people, as 
well as that of their rulers. Sultan was un- 
remitting in his attention to me, a meal being 



XVI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 261 

every day prepared at, and sent from his 
house. On one occasion he invited me to 
dine and pass the evening with him. I was 
received in a small room, furnished with only 
a rude table, two or three chairs, given him 
by the commanders of our vessels, and some 
carpets, on which, after I had declined the 
honour of the chairs, we all seated ourselves. 
Our dinner was, as usual, of the most frugal 
description, and, after its removal, the 
Sheikh's brother roasted and pounded the 
coffee, which the Sheikh himself made and 
handed round. A story-teller was then called 
in, whose tale, judging from the peals of 
laughter he drew from his hearers, must have 
possessed much entertainment ; but I was 
then too ignorant of the language to under- 
stand it. 



262 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

Personal appearance of the Natives of the Pirate Coast — Pearl 
Fishery — Divers — Boats employed —Pearl Oysters — Expedient 
for retaining the Breath— Cruising on Pearl Banks — Atmo- 
spheric Heat— Effects on Europeans — Arab Swimmers— Anec- 
dote of an Arab Diver — Diving for Fish — Sayyid ibn Mut- 
luk — Advance of the Wahhdbis — Termination of my Journey 
— Peculiar features of Oman — Oases. 

The inhabitants of the Pirate Coast consider 
themselves to be far superior to either the 
Bedowins or town Arabs. The latter, espe- 
cially those from Oman, they hold in such 
contempt, that a Maskatti and an arrant 
coward are by them held to be nearly synony- 
mous. They are taller, fairer, and, in gene- 
ral, more muscular than either of the above 
classes, until they attain the age of thirty 
or forty years, when they acquire a similar 
patriarchal appearance. Until this period 
some of their forms are perfect models of 
strength, and their development of muscle 



XVII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 263 

greater than that of any other Asiatic people 
with whom I am acquainted. Although by 
no means fond of exertion, when it can be 
avoided, yet, in cases positively requiring 
it, the manner in which they combine in- 
dividual efforts is truly astonishing, their 
largest barks, of three hundred tons, being 
drawn by sheer physical strength above high 
water mark with no other assistance than 
rollers. Whenever our boats required to be 
launched, or hauled over flats, they were 
always happy to assist, in order that they 
might laugh at the puny efforts of the Las- 
cars, for to save the Europeans in hot wea- 
ther that class were not unfrequently em- 
ployed in such operations. 

When not at feud with any of their 
neighbours their time is devoted to fish- 
ing, diving for pearls, or passed in com- 
plete idleness, for the north-westerly gales 
which prevail throughout the greater part of 
the year in this gulf prevent them, during its 
continuance, from putting to sea, and their 
supply is then obtained from the creeks and 
inlets which intersect its shores. The pearl 
fishery only lasts from June to September, 



264 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

for at other periods they complain that the 
cold is too severe. During the season every 
person who can procure a boat himself, or 
obtain a share in one, is thus employed, and 
their villages have no other occupants than 
children, females, and men who are too aged 
to follow this pursuit. 

The pearl bank extends from Sharja to 
Biddulph's Group. The bottom is of shelly 
sand and broken coral, and the depths vary 
from five to fifteen fathoms. The right of 
fishing on the bank is common, but alterca- 
tions between rival tribes are not unfrequent. 
Should the presence of a vessel of war pre- 
vent them from settling these disputes on the 
spot, they are generally decided on the islands 
where they land to open their oysters. In 
order to check such quarrels, which, if per- 
mitted, would lead to general confusion, two 
government vessels are usually cruising on 
the bank. 

Their boats are of various sizes, and of 
varied construction, averaging from ten to fifty 
tons. During one season it is computed that 
the island of Bahrein furnishes, of all sizes, 
three thousand five hundred ; the Persian coast, 



Mil.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 265 

one hundred ; and the space between Bahrein 
and the entrance of the Gulf, including the 
Pirate Coast, seven hundred. The value of the 
pearls obtained at these several ports is esti- 
mated at forty lacs of dollars, or four hundred 
thousand pounds. Their boats carry a crew 
varying from eight to forty men, and the 
number of mariners thus employed at the 
height of the season is rather above thirty 
thousand. None receive any definite wages, 
but each has a share of the profits upon the 
whole. A small tax is also levied on each 
boat by the Sheikh of the port to which it 
belongs. During this period they live on 
dates and fish, of which the latter are nume- 
rous and good, and to such meagre diet our 
small presents of rice were a most welcome 
addition. Where polypi abound they envelop 
themselves in a white garment; but in gene- 
ral, with the exception of a cloth around their 
waist, they are perfectly naked. When about 
to proceed to business they divide themselves 
into two parties, one of which remains in the 
boat to haul up the others who are engaged 
in diving. The latter having provided them- 
selves with a small basket, jump overboard, 
and place their feet on a stone, to which a 



266 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

line is attached. Upon a given signal this is 
let go, and they sink with it to the bottom. 
When the oysters are thickly clustered, eight 
or ten may be procured at each descent ; the 
line is then jerked, and the person stationed 
in the boat hauls the diver up with as much 
rapidity as possible. The period during which 
they can remain under water has been much 
overrated ; one minute is the average, and I 
never knew them, but on one occasion, to ex- 
ceed a minute and a half*. 

Accidents do not very frequently occur 
from sharks, but the sawfish (the Antiguorum 
of Linnaeus) is much dreaded. Instances 
were related to me where the divers had been 
completely cut in two by these monsters, which 
attain, in the Persian Gulf, a far larger size 
than in any other part of the world where I 
have met with them. As the character of this 
fish may not be familiar to the general reader, 
I will add a few words in the way of descrip- 
tion. They are of an oblong rounded form, 
their head being somewhat flattened from the 



* This was in the presence of the British Resident, Col. Stannns. 
One man of some hundreds present, for a reward of a few dollars, 
remained one minute and fifty seconds. In Ceylon they rarely 
exceed fifty seconds. 



XVII.] TRAVELS IN" OMAN. 267 

fore part, and tapering more abruptly towards 
the tail. They usually measure from thirteen 
to fifteen feet in length, being covered with a 
coriaceous skin, of a dark colour above, but 
white beneath. The terrific weapon from 
whence they derive their name is a flat pro- 
jecting snout, six feet in length, four inches 
in breadth, armed on either side with spines 
resembling the teeth of a shark. 

Diving is considered very detrimental to 
health, and without doubt it shortens the life 
of those who much practise it. In order to 
aid the retention of the breath, the diver 
places a piece of elastic horn over his nostrils, 
which binds them closely together. He does 
not enter the boat each time he rises to the 
surface, ropes being attached to the side, 
to which he clings, until he has obtained 
breath for another attempt. As soon as the 
fishermen have filled their boats they pro- 
ceed to some of the islands with which the 
bank is studded, and there with masts, oars, 
and sails, construct tents. They estimate the 
unopened oysters at two dollars a hundred *. 

* Of the several duties assigned to the Indian navy, that of 
cruising on the Pearl Banks is by far the most harassing and un- 
pleasant. It is arlmitted by those who arc well qualified to judge, 



268 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

Familiar with water from their youth, the 
natives are very expert, and the time they 
will remain upon it, as well as the distance 
they can swim, would sound incredible to 
European ears. There are well-attested cases 
of individuals who, without rest, have swam 
more than seven miles. 

In 1827 we were cruising in the Honourable 
Company's sloop Ternate on the Pearl Banks. 
Whilst becalmed, and drifting slowly along 
with the current, several of the officers and 
men were looking over her side at our Arab 
pilot, who had been amusing himself in 
diving for oysters. After several attempts, his 

that the heat of the atmosphere in the Persian Gulf during the warm 
season is not surpassed by any other spot in the known world. 
The nights being short, neither earth nor sea has time to cool. 
Even when on the horizon, the sun is sufficiently warm to be dis- 
agreeable : the sailors say it rises red hot ; and a few minutes after- 
wards the intensity of its beams elevates Fahrenheit's thermometer 
ten degrees. From this period until about eleven in the forenoon, 
when the sea-breeze sets in, the heat is almost intolerable. Under 
double awnings, their heads not unfrequently bound with wet cloths, 
the seamen are seen lying on the deck, or stretched along the gun- 
whale, looking for the first welcome indication of the breeze, abso- 
lutely panting for breath. Without the smallest exertion, a copi- 
ous perspiration streams from every pore. Water increases, in- 
stead of allaying thirst ; the skin is in such a state from irritation, 
that no clothes can be endured, and the slightest movement, by 
causing it to crack, is accompanied with great pain. 



XVII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 209 

search proved unsuccessful. " I will now," 
said he, " since I cannot gather oysters, dive 
for and catch fish." All ridiculed the idea. 
He went down again, and great was our asto- 
nishment to see him, after a short time, rise 
to the surface with a small rock-fish in either 
hand. His own explanation of the feat was, 
that as he seated himself at the bottom, the 
fish came around and nibbled at his skin. 
Watching an opportunity, he seized and se 
cured his prey by thrusting his thumb and 
fore-finger into their expanded gills. 

Tuesday, March2Sth. Intelligence of Sayyid 
ibn Mutluk's advance on Bedi'ah, the details 
of which I have given in my account of that 
district, reached me this morning, and com- 
pletely annihilated all hopes of being able, 
through his means, of reaching Der'ayyah. At 
the same time I also learnt that the Imam 
had despatched messengers who, not finding 
us at Bireimah, as was expected, had gone on 
to Obri. 

As it therefore became necessary that I 
should now forego all present intentions of 
advancing further into the country, I deter- 
mined to pass the few remaining days of the 



270 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

fair season on the Macran coast, where, al- 
though a maritime survey, conducted at a 
considerable expense, has fixed the geogra- 
phical positions of the towns, every species 
of information connected with its inhabitants 
&c, is wanting. 

The general observations which follow em- 
brace the several subjects which I have not 
embodied in the foregoing narrative. 

I have not found it an easier task to fix the 
limits of this province, than I before expe- 
rienced in ascertaining those of Hydramaut 
and Yemen. Under the denomination of 
Oman, some geographers comprehend all that 
tract which is encompassed by the provinces 
of Hydramaut, Lahsa, and Nejd. To the 
natives of the country, however, such a divi- 
sion is now unknown ; and in speaking of 
Oman they merely refer to the space between 
the districts of Jailan and Batna. Where in- 
quiries or research would produce in either 
instance no very satisfactory results, in my 
delineation of the province I have adopted 
the plan which appeared most natural, and 
consider that only as Oman which, in its 
general features, differs most prominently 



XVII. j TRAVELS IN OMAN. 271 

from the country by which it is surrounded, 
and which acknowledges the sovereignty of 
the reigning prince of Oman, though in some 
instances by a tie so slight, as scarcely to 
deserve the name. 

Oman thus considered, may be described 
as a narrow strip of land of irregular width, 
never exceeding one hundred and fifty miles 
in its broadest part. It is bounded on the 
east by the Indian Ocean, on the west by 
extensive deserts, and extends in a direct 
line from the island of Mazeira, in latitude 
20° 48', and longitude 58° 5&, nearly four 
hundred miles, to Ras, or Cape Mussendom, 
in latitude 26° 24', and longitude 56° 39', 
where it terminates in the form of an acute 
angle. 

By the natives of the country this part of 
Arabia is subdivided into four districts : — 
1st, Ja'ilan, comprehending Beni Abu 'Ali, 
and all that tract of country to the south-east 
of Bedi'ah ; 2ndly, Oman from Bedi'ah, north- 
west to Makiniyat; 3rdly, Dhorrah, from 
Makiniyat to Bire'imah ; and 4thly, Batna, 
extending in a narrow strip along shore, 
from Sib to Khorfakan. The general fea- 



272 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

tures and outlines of the province may be 
thus laid down. A range of mountains, 
forming a part of the great chain which 
almost encircles Arabia, traverses, in a direc- 
tion nearly parallel to the shore, the whole 
extent of the province from Maskat to Sur. 
The hills take their rise close to the beach ; 
but to the north of that port they retire 
considerably from it. 

In latitude 23°, a second range, the Jebel 
Akhdar, or Green Mountains, still more ele- 
vated, run in a direction nearly transverse to 
the former ; low parallel ridges, forming the 
roots of either branch, extending to a consi- 
derable distance from them. From the Jebel 
Akhdar the chain continues to Ras Mus- 
sendom, throwing off in its course another 
branch or arm, which extends to Ras el 
Kha'imah, on the shores of the Persian Gulf. 
The space included within this bifurcation 
and the sea is broken into piles of mountains, 
which are singularly disposed and of various 
elevations ; the width of the chain does not 
in general exceed twelve or fifteen miles, and 
the average height of the central or most 
elevated hills is from three thousand to three 



XVII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 273 

housand five hundred feet. Some of the 
highest points of the Jebel Akhdar rise, how- 
ever, nearly six thousand feet above the level 
of the sea. With the exception of this range, 
they are unwooded and barren. Feldspar 
and mica slate enter most commonly into the 
formation of the lower ranges, and primitive 
limestone into the upper. 

By referring to the map and narrative it will 
be seen, that from Beni Abu'Ali to Neswah, I 
traversed a line of oases, and that the space 
between them and the mountains on the sea- 
shore presents nothing but arid plains, desti- 
tute of either towns or villages. To the north- 
ward of Sib, the width of the Tehama or 
maritime plain (the Batna of the map) is from 
twenty to forty miles. It rises with a slight 
but gradual ascent from the sea to the base 
of the principal chain, and although not 
crossed by any of the rivers which appear on 
our maps, it has nevertheless some very con- 
siderable streams, which continue for the 
greater part of the year to pour their waters 
into the sea*. Beyond, or to the westward 

* There are, I am told, two exceptions, viz., the stream near to 
Ras or Cape Kuriat, and that at Sib, along the bed of which lies 
the road to Neswah. 

VOL. I. T 



274 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH t 

of the mountains in the northern districts, few 
towns or fertile spots occur, and in some in- 
stances the margin of the Desert is but a few 
miles removed from them. From the summit 
of the Jebel Akhdar I had an opportunity, 
during a clear day, to obtain an extensive 
view of the Desert to the south-west of Oman. 
Vast plains of loose drift-sand, across which 
even the hardy Bedowin scarcely dares to ven- 
ture, spread out as far as the eye can reach. 
Not a hill nor even a change of colouring in 
the plains occur, to break the unvarying and 
desolate appearance of the scene. 



XVIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 275 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

Soil and Agriculture — its general character — Batna — Grain, 
Vegetables — Cultivation on banks of Streams — Description 
of the Oases — Irrigation — Subterranean Rivulets — Harvest — 
Seed-time — Soil of the Jebel Akhdar — Terraced Gardens — 
Progress of Agriculture — Crops — Wells — Mode of raising 
Water — Egyptian method — Implements of Husbandry — Re- 
markable mode of Irrigation — Scriptural allusion — Arab 
Reapers — Tree s, Plants, tyc. 

Oman may, therefore, be described as a desert 
thickly studded with oases, and containing 
amidst its mountains numerous fertile valleys ; 
yet many of these are at a considerable dis- 
tance from each other, and it must be ad- 
mitted that the quantity of cultivated land 
bears but a small proportion to that which 
is incorrigibly barren ; for the intermediate 
space between the oases to the westward and 
the great sandy Desert is an arid plain, either 
sandy or clayey, according as the aluminous 
or silicious particles prevail. A few succu- 

t 2 



276 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

lent herbs, which are nourished by the nightly 
clews, and afford but indifferent grazing to 
their scanty flocks, spring up here ; but the 
large tracks occupied by the beds of the 
streams have generally a layer of rounded 
masses of limestone, brought from the moun- 
tains, deposited on their surface, and are 
wholly destitute of every species of vegeta- 
tion, save some dwarfish bushes on which 
the camel alone feeds. The soil in the Te- 
hama, in some spots, is hard and of a bad 
quality, but in others, whenever water can be 
conveyed, it is in a high degree susceptible of 
cultivation. In the narrow belt bordering on 
the sea-shore, called Batna, large quantities 
of grain and vegetables are reared, and a 
continuous line of date-trees, often four or 
five miles in breadth, extends from Sib to 
Kh6rfakan a distance of nearly two hundred 
miles. Reference is repeatedly made in the 
Arabian authors to the palms of Oman. Much 
cultivation exists along the banks of the 
streams, and also in the vicinity of the towns. 
But the most remarkable feature in this 
cduntry are the oases, which extend from 
Beni Abu 'All, in a continuous line, to the 



XVIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 277 

west-north-west They are usually of an ob- 
long form, lying at right angles to the streams 
by which they are supplied. Their size varies 
from a circumference of seven or eight miles 
to one, or even less. The singular and labo- 
rious mode by which the natives convey 
water to them, I have already noticed in my 
account of the oases of Bedi'ah. 

For the purpose of obtaining a better soil, 
and facilitating irrigation, the Arabs have 
removed the earth to the depth of six or 
seven feet, and they flood the whole or any 
part at pleasure. Some of these streams are 
public property, others belong to individuals 
or to companies. At a place called Om Ta'ief, 
near to Maskat, the Imam constructed a 
falj at a cost of forty thousand dollars ; 
but the water proved so brackish that they 
were forced to abandon it. An estate in 
North Oman, where these subterranean 
rivulets are very scarce, derives its value 
from its situation with regard to them. Some 
of the minor rills are exhausted, or their 
water is greatly diminished in the dry sea- 
son, and the ground is then irrigated from 
the main streams. At Nakhl, near to 



278 TRAVELS IN OMaN. [CH. 

Burka, four hundred dollars were paid for a 
supply of one hour every fifteen days, and, 
as they have no watches, they have recourse 
to the stars, with the precise time of the 
rising and setting of some few of which they 
are well acquainted. 

Water, it is well known, in a tropical climate 
gives an almost unlimited fertility to the 
soil. In the oases it is always saturated with 
moisture, and the leaves and other vegetable 
matter, decaying almost as soon as they are 
deposited, but little manure is required. 
Much of the cultivation is carried on beneath 
the trees, but open spaces are also left for 
grain or sugar-cane, which require the sun's 
rays to ripen them. Wheat is sown in the 
latter part of October, and reaped at the 
commencement or middle of March. Where 
they have the means of constant irrigation, 
the ground produces one crop of wheat and 
two of dhurrah. Barley is sown a month after 
wheat. No rice is grown in Oman ; and so 
far from any export of wheat existing, the 
natives have not a sufficiency for their own 
consumption, and import large quantities 
from Persia and Macran. In the oases 



XVIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 279 

wheat yields an increase from fifteen to 
twenty fold : barley nearly the same : dhurrah 
(Holcus Sorghum) from thirty to forty fold. 
The singular appearance which these groves 
present during the various stages of their ve- 
getable produce, I have noticed elsewhere. 

From the elevated position of the Jebel 
Akhdar, many of the valleys formed by the 
upper ranges differ from the plains below, both 
in their soil and mode of cultivation. The 
ground there is usually terraced, as in Pales- 
tine and China, and produces a great variety 
of trees and fruits not reared in other parts. 

Agriculture has made but small progress in 
Oman. It has been already noticed that the 
prolific soil of the oases requires but small 
assistance ; for where men fear nothing from 
the vicissitudes of the season, little manage- 
ment in the process of husbandry is required. 
But on the arable land in the open plains, 
where the earth, though of indifferent quality, 
is yet susceptible of considerable improve- 
ment, the natives bestow neither labour nor 
expense to remedy the defect. I must, how- 
ever, except the country in the vicinity of 
Minna and Neswah, which, in place of barren 



280 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

and neglected wastes but partially tilled, by 
which other towns are disfigured, exhibit 
extensive ranges of sown fields, rich in every 
kind of vegetable production. 

The crops in the plains depend, in some 
measure, on the rains, although many parts 
are irrigated from wells, some of which are of 
considerable depth. It is singular, consider- 
ing the pains which have been bestowed on 
the rivulets by w 7 hich the oases are supplied, 
that the inhabitants should not seek by me- 
chanical means to abridge the labour which 
this process entails. Here, as in India, two 
pieces of timber, generally the trunk of a 
date-palm, are planted w r ith sufficient incli- 
nation to plumb the centre of the well. 
Across a roller, affixed in the upper part of 
these, a bucket-rope traverses, the bucket 
being usually a bullock's hide, gathered up 
into the shape of a bag, with a hose at the 
lower part : to the extremity of this a small 
cord is attached, leading over a roller about 
two feet above the brink of the well. Bul- 
locks are used for drawing the water ; and in 
order to add the impetus of the animal to its 
strength, he is driven down a slope excavated 



XVIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 281 

for the purpose, at an angle of fifteen degrees. 
Both ropes are affixed to the yoke, and by 
the time the water is swayed sufficiently 
high, that made fast to the hose which has 
hitherto been kept in a vertical position, be- 
comes tightened, drawing the mouth of the 
hose downwards, and the water is then dis- 
charged into a narrow reservoir. 

When the wells are sufficiently shallow 
they practise the same method as is adopted 
by the Egyptians on the banks of the Nile. 
A pole being suspended in the middle be- 
tween two supporters, the bucket is attached 
to one extremity, and a stone or some heavy 
article to the other: its weight assists the 
peasant, who sways on the rope attached to 
it. From the reservoir the water is con- 
ducted, by artificial rills, over the face of the 
surrounding country. 

Their implements of husbandry are rude 
and ill constructed. The plough is of the 
same description as that of Yemen, which 
will be found figured by Niebuhr. After 
ploughing, they form the ground with a spade 
into small squares with ledges on either side, 
along which the water is conducted. Be- 



282 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

sides preventing its spreading, these embank- 
ments also serve to retain the moisture on 
the surface for a longer period. When one 
of the hollows is filled, the peasant stops the 
supply by turning up the earth with his foot, 
and thus opens a channel into another *. 

Within these inclosures they cast the seed 
by hand into narrow furrows, and afterwards 
cover it over, leaving the whole a plain sur- 
face. By this mode they effect a consider- 
able saving of the seed, which can neither 
decay from exposure to the atmosphere, nor 
be carried off by the birds. Their corn is 
reaped with a small sickle of a semi-lunar 
shape, and notched like a saw. The man 
who reaps hands the sheaf to another, by 
whom it is formed, bound, and laid in a line 
parallel to that which his companion is clear- 
ing away. These are afterwards collected 
together, and a stone of considerable size is 
drawn over them by two oxen. In other 

* An allusion to this custom, of the gardener changing with his 
foot the channel of a stream of water, furnishes the King of 
Assyria, in his threatening message, with a very appropriate 
image. " With the sole of my foot,''' says he, " I have dried up the 
rivers of besieged places." The practice of Arabia is also familiar 
to the modem Portuguese husbandman. 



XVIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 283 

parts a circular space, about twenty feet in 
diameter, is inclosed by a wall. To a stake 
in the centre a bullock is fastened by a yoke 
of peculiar construction, and he is driven 
round and round until the corn is trodden out 
in his progress. It is afterwards winnowed 
by means of palm branches, one of the party 
following and occasionally turning the sheaves 
with a rake. I was pleased on these occa- 
sions to observe that here, as in Palestine 
and other parts of the East, the ox was left 
unmuzzled. 

Over the surface of the greater part of the 
intervening desert between the oases trees 
and bushes appear but thinly scattered. 
Some spaces are wholly destitute of them, 
but extensive tracts through which I passed, 
in the vicinity of Beni Abu 'All, are thickly 
wooded with lofty acacias. The largest of 
these are called by the Arabs goff (Acacia 
Arabica) y and sumr (Acacia Vera). A gum 
exudes from both ; the true gum Arabic, how- 
ever, is only obtained from the latter, although 
the produce of the former, of inferior quality, 
is not unfrequently substituted for it. These 
trees are used for making charcoal, and me- 



284 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

dicinal properties are attributed to the bark 
of the Acacia Arabica. The wood is also made 
into agricultural implements, the stocks of 
matchlocks, and other articles requiring ex- 
cessive hardness. No timber fit for building 
is found in Oman, the trunk of the date- 
palm, commonly used in erecting their houses, 
scarcely deserving that appellation, since it is 
weak, and very soon decays. 

Tarfa, or tamarisk bushes (Tamaricc Ori- 
entalis) are numerous. Camels feed greedily 
on their tender branches and leaves, which 
the Bedowins collect by beating the trees 
with sticks, and receiving what falls upon a 
cloth spread beneath them. On the Jebel 
Akhdar there are, as I have noticed in the 
course of the Narrative, many indigenous trees 
not found in the plains. In some of the chan- 
nels through which water has passed, lofty 
tamarind, nebek {Lotus Nebea), and hithel 
trees have taken root, notwithstanding the 
rocky nature of their bed ; but, generally 
speaking, the summits and slopes of the 
mountains are unwooded and barren. Ta- 
marind trees also grow most luxuriantly on 
some of the plains. They are large, wide- 



XVIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 28.5 

spreading, beautiful trees, but the people of 
Oman, like the natives of Hindostan, enter- 
tain a belief that it is dangerous to sleep be- 
neath them, especially at night. 

In Oman I never met with either frankin- 
cense or dragon's-blood trees, although they 
are very numerous on the hills in the neigh- 
bouring province of Hydramaut. The Arabs 
report that they are not found to the west- 
ward of the Mahara district. On the borders 
of the streams aloes are very numerous. In 
the distribution of its leaves and its average 
height, the plant which is called by the Arabs 
succul is the same as the aloe spiccata, found 
in Socotra, and on the coast of Arabia Felix ; 
but it is of a sea-green, instead of a light- 
brown colour ; very succulent, and not so 
deeply serrated. I have seen a variety 
closely resembling this in India and Egypt, 
but am not aware that botanists have classed 
it. The natives collect a small quantity of 
the juice, but being of a more acrid taste than 
the better sort, it is not held in much esteem, 
and none is in consequence exported. Cassia 
lanceoletta, senna meaki (the sharp-pointed 
senna of Forskal) is found growing in great 



286 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

abundance in Oman, but the natives employ 
it very sparingly in their medicines. Many 
colocynth plants (Cucumus colocynthis of Lin- 
naeus) are found in the vicinity of Bedi'ah, 
and also along the sea-coast. The melon, 
called by the Arabs hungil, is found in some 
places strewn over the ground in great pro- 
fusion. Several bushes of the milk-hedges 
(Euphorbia tiraculla) are found amidst the 
mountains ; and notwithstanding the peculiar 
acrid nature of its juice, which is sufficient to 
inflame and blister the skin, the goats eat the 
plants with impunity. Rice (Reta graveolus) , 
Abysinthium, wild lavender, and many aro- 
matic shrubs and plants are also seen : of 
these a large collection was made, but being 
of no utility to man and of little interest 
to the general reader, they are but slightly 
noticed here. The champer flower (Michadis 
champaca) and the Arabian jessamine are cul- 
tivated for the sake of their perfume, which 
is in great request with the females. In 
north Oman two varieties of sorrel are found, 
of which the Bedowins, who consider them as 
a mild laxative, are very fond. Water-cresses 
grow on the borders of the streams ; the Arabs 



XVIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 287 

use their seed for medicinal purposes. In 
the interior of the province all the oases, as 
well as the cultivated lands in the vicinity of 
its towns, are alike productive, and the follow- 
ing list applies to them collectively ; but many 
of the fruits are not found in gardens near the 
sea-coast. I may be pardoned the dry detail 
of such a catalogue, since it will convey, 
better than any lengthened description, an 
idea of the natural productions of a country 
hitherto regarded as a desert. Nor must it 
be forgotten that all contained in this list, 
amounting to twenty different kinds, are often 
reared in a space not more than three or four 
hundred yards in diameter. 



TRAVELS IN OMAN. CH« 



CHAPTER XIX. 

Fruits of Oman — Oranges — Limes — Lemons — Introduction of 
the Lemon-tree into Europe — Tamarinds — Mangoes — Beauty 
of the Mangoe tree— Grapes — Wine — Plantains— Pumpkins 
— Figs, inferior to those of Turkey — Dates — Seed of Male 
Palm — Grain — Vegetables, fyc. — Wild Beasts — The Imam's 
Camel — Description — Food of the Camel — Value— Rate of 
Travelling — Burckhardt — Volney— Captain Burnes — Author s 
experience of Camel Travelling — Housings — Illustrations f 
Scriptural Quotations — Author in danger of being Shot — 
Imams Horses — Value — Studs of Burka and Suwe'ik — Asses t 
their sureness of Foot — Buffaloes — Oxen — Poultry — Birds — 
Bedouin Sportsmen — Fish — Climate — Diseases — Arab Phy- 
sicians — Meteorology — Geological Features. 

Of oranges, limes*, and lemons there are 
several varieties. Respecting the first, it may 
be sufficient to mention the sweet orange 
{Citrus cinensis) ; the Mandarine orange, so 
called in China and India ; and a third 
sort, remarkable for the thinness and bright- 
yellow colour of its skin, and its superior 

* Large quantities of limes are dried in the sun, and exported 
to the Persian Gulf. 



XIX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 289 

flavour. Of limes, there are the Citrus acida, 
and three or four other species, also well 
known in India by the designation of sweet 
limes. Lemons are scarce and small ; but 
the citron attains a very large size. The 
lemon-tree is said to be a native of Persia ; 
but from its Arabian name, Limon, it would 
appear to have been brought to Europe by 
the Arabs. From the juice of limes, they 
make sherbet, a very cooling beverage, drank 
in large quantities during febrile disor- 
ders. Of tamarinds and mangoes there are 
also several kinds, differing considerably in 
size, flavour, and appearance ; but the best 
are considered inferior to those obtained in 
India. In the spring, when this tree puts 
forth its blossom, the whole of its foliage ap- 
pears of a golden hue, which, with its wide- 
spreading branches, and umbrageous foliage, 
entitles it to rank as the most noble among 
the vegetable productions of the oases. 
Quinces (Pyrus cydoma and Pyrus mains) are 
found on the Jebel Akhdar — the latter on 
the plains. A considerable quantity of 
this fruit is shipped off to India. Custard 
apples, Anana reticulata. Grapes are vow a 
vol. i. u 



290 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

principally in the Jebel Akhdar, one of a 
white, and the other of a dark-purple colour ; 
the former are used for wine, and from the 
latter they make raisins. Plantains also, of 
various sorts. Water melons, and pumpkins, 
all plentiful and good in their several kinds. 
Almonds, walnuts, figs, several varieties ; the 
best, called Tim (Ficus carica, Linn.), are 
sweet and pleasant, but smaller, and inferior 
in richness and flavour to those of Turkey. 
The natives dry and string them on lines. 
Nebek, the fruit of the Lotus nebca. Dates. 
These form the principal, and often, par- 
ticularly in travelling, the only food of the 
natives. Oman produces vast quantities. I 
have already noticed the extensive groves on 
the Batna coast. The best kind here are 
considered scarcely inferior to those of Bas- 
rah and Bahrein, esteemed the best in 
Arabia. The natives are very fond of the 
seed of the male palm ; it has a slight odo- 
riferous smell, but its taste, I thought, could 
only be relished from habit. White and jow- 
aree grain (Holcus sorghum), wheat, and bar- 
ley, are grown, but little rice. The vegetables 
are onions, lentils, radishes, carrots, brin- 



XIX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 291 

jals (the egg plant), parsley, several kinds of 
beans, peas, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, let- 
tuces, and some greens, which, when boiled, 
taste not unlike our garden spinach. Po- 
tatoes have not been introduced; the sem- 
sem, or Sesamum orientale, is grown in large 
quantities; from the seed an oil is expressed, 
which is much esteemed by the Arabs. They 
sometimes toast the seed, and make it into 
bread. To these we may add indigo, the 
cotton bush (Gossypium herbareum) , the castor- 
oil tree, and extensive fields of sugar-cane. 
Hemp is reared, but not manufactured ; but 
its seeds form one of their natural inebrients. 

The wild animals of Oman nearly resemble 
those common to other parts of Arabia. On 
the plains, jackals, foxes, hares, antelopes, 
and jerboas, the mus jaculus, are very nume- 
rous ; hyaenas are only found near the moun- 
tains, where they shelter themselves in caves 
and hollows. Wild hogs, goats, and a de- 
scription of small panther, are met with on 
the Jebel Akhdar. 

Camels in all parts of Arabia are esteemed 
a gift of inestimable value, and those of Oman 
enjoy a deserved celebrity for strength and 

u2 



292 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

swiftness. Nejd is equally the nursery of the 
camel as of the horse ; but the Omany in all 
ages is celebrated in the songs of the Arabs 
as the fleetest ; their legs are more slender 
and straight, their eyes more prominent and 
sparkling, and their whole appearance denotes 
them of higher lineage than the ordinary 
breed of the animal. Anecdotes are told of 
two which the Imam formerly possessed, that 
appear almost incredible. I have heard it 
asserted by those on whose testimony I should 
place every reliance, that one of these favour- 
ite dromedaries carried a courier from Sib to 
Sohar, an ordinary journey of six days, in 
thirty-six hours. Considering such frequent 
mention has been made of the camel from the 
earliest period, it is singular we possess no 
correct or even detailed information respect- 
ing its habits, character, or general appear- 
ance. I am not acquainted with a single 
illustrated zoological work which affords even 
a tolerable representation of one. 

The silence of travellers, in reference to an 
animal to which all have been so much in- 
debted, may be accounted for on the suppo- 
sition that each individual conceived the sub 



XIX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 293 

ject too important to have escaped his prede- 
cessors and naturalists in general, as in truth 
it appears to have done. 

The following remarks, in addition to other 
scattered notices found in these travels, differ 
in many respects from received opinions ; but 
very favourable opportunities of studying the 
subject enable me to submit them with con- 
fidence ; and in other respects, that which is 
new may serve to supply a deficiency in the 
natural history of the most useful animal 
which the bounty of the Creator has bestowed 
on man. 

All the camel's habits and instincts are 
adapted to its singular condition and the 
region which he inhabits. Let us contem- 
plate the creature from the moment of its 
birth. Should this happen on a journey, the 
Bedowin* receives it in his arms, and for a few 
hours places it on the mother's back ; but at 
the first halting-place, the little stranger is 
put down to receive the parent's caresses, and 
ever after continues, unassisted, to follow her 
footsteps. 

* He is joyously welcomed with the exclamation, " Another 
child is horn unto us." 



294 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

Thus accustomed from its earliest age to 
long and toilsome journeys, little training is 
necessary, beyond proportioning the weight 
to its tender age, to inure them to the carry- 
ing of burthens ; and they voluntarily kneel 
when about to be loaded for a journey, a 
position which their great height renders 
necessary. Kneeling is their natural state of 
rest ; but when heavily laden on flinty or 
stony ground, it cannot be accomplished with- 
out pain. They then drop at once on both 
front knees, and in order to establish room for 
their hinder legs, are compelled in that con- 
dition, and whilst encumbered with the whole 
weight of the burthen, to plough them for- 
ward. The callosities on their joints, although 
nearly of a horny nature in the aged camels, 
seem insufficient to defend them, and it is 
impossible for the European to view the act 
without commiseration. 

In consequence of this the Bedowins never 
make them kneel to mount themselves, but 
either cause the animal to droop his neck to 
receive their foot, and on their raising it the 
rider is enabled to gain his seat, or they 
climb up behind: it pleases them much 



XIX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 295 

when a stranger can accomplish either of these 
feats. 

The camel of Arabia has only a single 
hump, which is round and fleshy, whilst the 
animal continues in good condition. No 
sooner, however, does he begin to feel the 
inroads of famine than a very remarkable 
change takes place. By a singular provision 
of nature, an absorption of this excrescence 
supplies the place of other nourishment ; nor 
does the body exhibit any considerable dimi- 
nution of bulk, until little more of the hump 
remains except its frame-work of bones and 
muscles. Such is the universal report given 
by the Bedowins, whose ample means of ob- 
servation entitle their opinions to respect. 

Whilst young they are pretty-looking ani- 
mals, but when aged and over-worked they 
generally lose their hair, and become very 
unsightly objects. In general they have a 
clean sleek coat, usually of a light brown 
colour, with a fringe of dark hair along the 
neck ; but this covering in the Arabian or 
Desert camel is less profuse than in that of 
Upper Asia, which is better adapted to the 
climate of those regions. In Arabia I have 



296 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

occasionally seen one of these animals per- 
fectly black ; but the Bishyrean camel, on 
the Nubian coast, is quite white. The eye of 
the camel resembles that of the gazelle ; it is 
large, dark, soft, and prominent, and retains 
its peculiar brilliancy under the fiercest glare 
of the sun and sand. Its feet are large and 
spreading, and covered at the lower part with 
a rough, flexible skin, well adapted to a dry 
soil, but they soon fail them in wet or slippery 
places. Neither is the camel better pleased 
with a loose sandy soil than other animals ; 
it is a hard but fine gravelly plain in which 
he delights ; although, provided they are 
rough, he can ascend the steepest and most 
rugged paths with the same facility and se- 
cureness of footing as a mule. 

Camels bear a high price in Oman. I have 
known one hundred and forty dollars paid 
for one. Depth of chest and largeness of 
barrel constitute their chief excellencies. 
From thirty to fifty dollars is however their 
average price. 

The great length of the camel's neck en- 
ables the animal, without stopping, to nip the 
thorny shrubs which everywhere abound on 






•-- 



sJt' 






n 



«r 



siH^ -— ■, :/ / ; 



. 




«F««gi|^ : 






XIX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 297 

the Desert, and, although the spines on some 
are sufficiently formidable to pierce a thick 
shoe, the cartilaginous formation of their 
mouth enables them to feed without diffi- 
culty. The Bedowin also, when walking, 
devotes a considerable portion of his time in 
collecting and feeding his camel with the 
succulent plants and herbs which cross his 
path. These, on a journey, with a few hand- 
fuls of dates or beans, form its ordinary food ; 
but while encamped, he is fed on the green 
stalk of thejowaree and the leaves and tender 
branches of the tarfa*, heaped on circular 
mats, and placed before the animal, who 
kneels while he is partaking of them. In 
Southern Arabia they are fed on salt, and 
even fresh fish. 

During a journey it is customary to halt 
about four o'clock, remove the loads, and 
permit the camels to graze around. If the 
Arabs are desirous of preventing them from 
straying too far, they tie their fore-legs toge- 
ther, or bind the fetlock to the upper joint 
by a cord. The head is never secured, ex- 
cepting whilst travelling, when the Arabs 

* Tamarix Orientalis. 



298 TRAVELS IN OMAN, [cH. 

unite them in single file by fastening the 
head of one to the tail of his predecessor. 
Towards evening they are called in for their 
evening meal, and placed in a kneeling 
posture round the baggage. They do not 
browse after dark, and seldom attempt to 
rise, bat continue to chew the cud through- 
out the greater part of the night. If left 
to themselves they usually plant their hind 
quarters to the wind. The male, as well as 
the female, voids its urine backwards, and, 
as the ground there becomes wet and uncom- 
fortable, they continue slowly, without chang- 
ing their recumbent position, to move them- 
selves forward. 

Authorities differ as to the period the camel 
can endure thirst. Buffon mentions five days 
as an extraordinary instance ; Tavernier, a 
good authority, nine ; but it appears that ca- 
mels, like several other ruminating animals, 
when fed on succulent herbage, do not require 
water ; and a friend, who has had ample op- 
portunities of judging, assures me that he 
once travelled from Baghdad to Damascus, a 
journey of twenty-five days, without the ca- 
mels once drinking — a sufficiency of moisture 



XIX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 299 

being afforded by the abundant vegetation 
there found at every stage. 

Notwithstanding its patience and other ad- 
mirable qualities, the camel is gifted with 
but little sagacity, nor does it appear to be 
capable of forming any strong attachment to 
its master, although they frequently do so to 
one of their own kind with which they have 
long been accustomed to travel, In protracted 
desert journeys the camel appears fully sen- 
sible that his safety consists in keeping close 
to the caravan ; for, if detained behind, he 
never ceases making strenuous efforts to re- 
gain it. A recent traveller* represents the 
camel as a peaceful, quiet animal. He says 
that "they eat with a sort of regularity and 
order, a little at a time ; and that, if either of 
them left his place, his companion appeared 
gently to reprove him, which made the other 
to feel his fault, and return to it again." On 
the contrary, I should say, they are the most 
quarrelsome brutes in existence. After the 
hardest day's journey, no sooner is the bag- 
gage removed than the attention of the driver 
is constantly required to keep them from 
* Ali Bey. Badhea. 



300 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

fighting ; the " gentle reprovals" being fero- 
cious bites and lacerations of each other's 
ears. 

Volney calculates the pace of the camels of 
Syria at three thousand six hundred yards 
per hour ; and Captain Burnes, who has de- 
voted considerable attention to the subject, 
found it in Turkistan to be nearly the same. 
In Oman I have however ascertained their 
average rate of caravan travelling to be con- 
siderably more — to determine which, I adopted 
the following method : By means of a good 
watch I on several occasions accurately noted 
the time which was occupied in passing be- 
tween two places lying north and south of 
each other, the latitudes of which I had care- 
fully fixed, and the result gives from two 
and a half to two and three quarters geogra- 
phical miles an-hour ; and this, I observe, is 
the same as that reckoned by Burckhardt. 
But the usual pace of the Oman camels, when 
the Bedowins mount them for a desert jour- 
ney, is a quick hard trot, from six to eight 
miles an hour. They will continue this for 
twenty to twenty-four consecutive hours ; but 
increase their speed, on occasions which 



XIX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 301 

require it, to thirteen and fifteen miles an 
hour. The female is esteemed swifter than 
the male ; nevertheless, the Bedowins, in 
consequence of its greater spirit, not unfre- 
quently prefer the latter. The load of the 
camel differs very considerably. In Egypt, 
when supplied with abundance of food, they 
carry upwards of a thousand pounds ; but the 
ordinary burden in a caravan journey is from 
two hundred and fifty to five hundred pounds. 
The motions and paces of the camel are un 
gainly ; its walk, its trot at speed, its gallop, 
being equally violent and disagreeable. 

They adorn the necks of these animals with 
a band of cloth or of leather, upon which are 
strung or sewn small shells called cowries, 
in the form of half-moons. To these the 
Sheikhs add ornaments of silver, so that, even 
in the present day, they would form a valu- 
able prize to the spoiler. We possibly have 
here an illustration of several passages in 
Holy Writ, as Judges iii. 20. 26, when camel 
ornaments are mentioned in connexion with 
jewels and other articles of value. The shells 
are strung in a semicircular form ; hence the 
phrase " ornaments like the moon." 



302 TRAVELS IN OMaN. [CH. 

The camel is subjected to but few diseases. 
In damp places its feet crack and ulcerate : 
the rot is especially fatal; hundreds, when 
the Syrian Hajj remains encamped at Aleppo 
and other large cities, being sometimes swept 
off by it. Petroleum is the most usual re- 
medy. A glandular swelling in the neck, 
which usually kills him in three or four days, 
and colics, are also said to prevail in the 
spring and autumn of the year. The actual 
cautery is put in requisition for all these. 

When the camel on a journey refuses to 
rise, the Arabs universally abandon him to 
his fate. It is seldom they get on their legs 
again, though instances have occurred where 
they have done so, and completed a journey 
of several days. I have often passed them 
when thus abandoned, and remarked their 
mournful looks as with mute eloquence they 
gazed after the receding caravan. When the 
Arab is upbraided with inhumanity, because 
he does not at once put a period to the ani- 
mal's sufferings, he answers that the law for- 
bids taking away life, save for food ; and even 
then, pardon is to be implored for the neces- 
sity which compels the act. When death 



XIX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 303 

approaches the poor solitary, vultures and 
other rapacious birds, which espy or scent 
their prey at an incredible distance, assemble 
in flocks, and, darting upon the body, com- 
mence their repast even before life is extinct. 
Thus, in well-beaten routes, the traveller con- 
tinually sees remains of this faithful servant 
of man, exhibiting sometimes the perfect ske- 
leton, covered with its shrunk and shrivelled 
hide, sometimes the bones only, altogether 
deprived of flesh, and bleached to dazzling 
whiteness by the scorching rays of a desert 
sun. 

Those belonging to the Imam excepted, 
there are very few horses in Oman, and in 
some places the sight of them is unknown. 
On one occasion, when mounted on mine, and 
riding some distance ahead of the caravan, I 
was mistaken for a Wahhabi, and within an 
ace of being shot as such by another party 
advancing from one of the towns. To the 
fleetness of this noble animal, which, in com- 
pliment to its princely donor, I had named Say- 
yid, I was indebted, on another occasion, for 
the preservation of my life. On my return from 
Obri to Suwe'ik, contrary to the wish of the 



304 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

Bedowins, who had received intelligence that 
the Wahhabis were lurking around, I left the 
village where we had halted alone, with my 
gun, in search of game. Scarcely had I rode 
three miles from the walls when, suddenly 
turning an angle of the rocks, I found myself 
within a few yards of a group of about a dozen 
horsemen, who lay on the ground, basking 
listlessly in the sun. To turn my horse's 
head and away, was the work scarcely of an 
instant; but hardly had I done so ere the 
whole party were also in their saddles, in full 
cry after me. Several balls whizzed past my 
head, which Sayyid acknowledged by bound- 
ing forward like an antelope. He was accus- 
tomed to these matters; and their desire to 
possess him unharmed, alone prevented my 
pursuers from bringing him down. As we 
approached the town, I looked behind me. 
A Sheikh, better mounted than his followers, 
was in advance, his dress and long hair 
streaming behind him, while he poised his 
long spear on high, apparently in doubt 
whether he was sufficiently within range to 
pierce me. My good stars decided that he 
was not ; for, reining up his horse, he rejoined 



XIX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 305 

his party, whilst I gained the walls in safety. 
These were probably the same men who had 
murdered the two messengers despatched to 
me by the Imam of Maskat, and to which cir- 
cumstance Sayyid ibn Kalfan alludes in his 
letter, given in the Appendix. 

The day before Sayyid came into my hands 
he had been presented to the Imam by a Nejd 
Sheikh. Reared in domesticity, and accus- 
tomed to share the tent of some family in that 
country, he possessed in an extraordinary 
degree all the gentleness and docility, as well 
as the fleetness, which distinguish the pure 
breed of Arabia. To avoid the intense heat, 
and spare their camels, the Bedowins fre- 
quently halted during my journey for an hour 
about mid-day. On these occasions Seyyid 
would remain perfectly still, while I reposed 
on the sand, skreened by the shadow of his 
body. My noon repast of dates he always 
looked for, and shared. Whenever we halted, 
after unsaddling him, and taking off his bridle 
with my own hands, he was permitted to roam 
about the encampment without control. At 
sunset he came for his corn at the sound of 
my voice ; and during the night, without 

vol. i. x 



306 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

being fastened, he generally took up his 
quarters at a few yards from his master. 
During my coasting voyages along the shores 
of Oman, he always accompanied me, and 
even in a crazy open boat across the ocean 
from Maskat to India. My health having 
compelled me to return to England overland, 
I could not in consequence bring Sayyid with 
me. In parting with this attached and faith- 
ful creature, so long the companion of my 
perils and wanderings, I am not ashamed to 
acknowledge that I felt an emotion similar to 
what is experienced in being separated from 
a tried and valued friend. 

Several of the Imam's horses are of the 
noblest breed in Nejd, some of his mares 
being valued at from 1500 to 2000 dollars ; 
and one horse, the most perfect and beautiful 
creature I ever saw, was considered to be 
worth an equal sum. He maintains a portion 
of his stud at Maskat ; but the greater num- 
ber is at Burka and Suweik, where they pay 
great attention to the breed and rearing of 
these noble animals. Camels and asses are, 
however, more generally used for travelling 
in Oman ; and although a Sheikh may occa- 



XIX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 307 

sionally think it derogatory to ride on the 
latter, all other classes are less fastidious. 
They are large, well made, and endure great 
fatigue. The Arabs take considerable care 
of them ; and some of the better kind fetch 
from forty to fifty dollars. Those which tra- 
verse the Jebel Akhdar, in point of size, 
sturdiness, and sureness of step, are almost 
equal to mules crossing the most difficult 
passes, over a smooth limestone rock, without 
a single false step. A great many asses are 
shipped from Oman to the eastern ports of 
Persia, and also to the Isle of France, where 
they are highly valued*. 

Buffaloes are unknown ; oxen are not nu- 
merous, and they all have the hump which is 
supposed to be a distinguishing mark of the 
African species. Their value for agricultural 
and other labours is too considerable to allow 
of their being killed for food, excepting at 
the large towns. They are principally used 
for drawing water, for ploughing, and for 
treading out the grain. On the sea-coast, 
where there is a great scarcity of fodder, 

* There are no vehicles of any description eilher carried or drawn 
in Oman, nor, as far as I have seen, in any other part of Arabia. 

x2 



308 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

they are fed on dates, or fish, either fresh or 
salted. 

Goats abound throughout Oman, but sheep 
are scarce, and usually of a black colour, and 
small size ; but as they are mostly fed on aro- 
matic herbs, of which there are great abun- 
dance, their flesh is sweet and well flavoured. 
The tail, though larger than that of the Eu- 
ropean breed, is less ponderous than those 
brought from the African shore. The Arabs 
do not castrate either sheep or goats, but 
destroy the generative principle in the male 
by means of a tight ligature. 

With the exception of fowls, which are 
abundant and cheap, the Arabs of Oman 
have no domestic poultry. Game is scarce : 
the only water-fowl I saw there during 
my stay were some wild ducks, of the Anas 
boschas variety, and not in the slightest de- 
gree fishy. Doves, plovers, and pigeons are 
very numerous, but the Arabs never trouble 
themselves with killing them. Quails, the 
common brown, or Desert partridge, and a 
species of pheasant, are found in great abun- 
dance on the plains. The tenor of the Mo- 
hammedan law places a great restriction on 



XIX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 309 

shooting. Directly the bird falls the sports- 
man runs up, and cuts his throat. If a suffi- 
ciency of blood does not flow from the wound, 
it is pronounced unfit for food. Eagles breed 
amidst the mountains, and three varieties of 
vulture are found on the plains. A great 
abundance and variety of sea-fowl frequent 
the sea-coast : of these the most common are 
the laughing sea-gull (Ridibundits) , the noddy 
(Stolida), red-throated diver (Septentrionalis) , 
the white spoon-bill (Leucorodia) , the Indian 
crane {Antigone). The whole line of coast 
abounds in fish, but as they are, with one or 
two exceptions, the same as those of India, I 
forbear to enumerate them. Maskat is often 
visited by a large grampus, which our sailors 
call the Maskat Tom, and the Arabs Ouey. 
It sometimes capsizes their boats, and plays, 
according to their report, other mischievous 
pranks, but I have never heard of its commit- 
ting any serious injury. 

Maskat Cove some years ago w r as so abun- 
dantly filled with the small fish called sar- 
dinas in the Mediterranean, that they might 
be obtained in any quantity, and a great 
number were preserved and exported; but 



310 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

about two years ago they wholly deserted 
their former quarters, and are now only 
found in the vicinity of Gambrun on the 
Persian shore. I have heard it related by 
the inhabitants, that about every fifth or sixth 
year the fish on the coast are visited by 
some epidemic, which destroys them in vast 
numbers, and many are then thrown up on 
the shore. In the running streams there are 
numerous small fry, but the natives do not 
eat them. The insects and reptiles are 
locusts, wasps, bees, tortoises, lizards, scor- 
pions, and many others common to India. 

A considerable diversity in the geographi- 
cal features of the country produces in Oman 
a corresponding variation in the climate. 
Away from the sea-coast, to the westward of 
the mountains, the air is very dry in the cold, 
and excessively hot in the warm season ; but 
in Batna, the high mountains which retreat 
considerably from the coast arrest the pro- 
gress of the vapours exhaled and wafted from 
the ocean, and it is comparatively cool and 
moist. The exuberant vegetation of the 
oases reduces the temperature, but the cli- 
mate, at the same time, is especially obnox- 



XIX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 311 

ious to strangers. Violent fevers, which have 
very generally a fatal termination, prevail all 
the cool season ; indeed those who reside in 
the oases bear striking evidence of the fact, 
that the air which is most favourable to ve- 
getable, has a contrary effect on human life. 
They appeared during my stay among them 
to be constantly suffering from sickness, and 
have not the vigorous and healthy look of the 
Bedowins. Their houses, damp and gloomy- 
looking edifices, which the sun's rays never 
warm, are built within their groves. Around 
them are swamps and pools of water, bor- 
dered by a rank and luxuriant vegetation, 
and the inhabitant steps from such a locality 
to the arid and burning Desert. The causes 
of such insalubrity are, therefore, fully as 
apparent as the effects. On the other hand, 
the district occupied by the Beni Abu 'All 
tribe, the territories of the Beni Geneba, and 
the Batna coast, are remarkable for their sa- 
lubrity. People who have been attacked in 
the former with fevers, dysenteries, &c, 
aided by the pure air and plain diet, gene- 
rally recover after a month's residence in the 
latter districts. The small village of Sib, 



312 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

about twenty miles to the northward of 
Maskat, is especially celebrated for its resto- 
rative qualities. 

Ophthalmia and other diseases of the eye 
seem very frequent, especially amidst those 
who reside in the oases. The sudden transi- 
tion from the gloom of their groves to the 
glare of the Desert is sufficient to originate 
disease, and their uncleanly habits to con- 
tinue it. They are perfect gluttons in medi- 
cine, and will swallow as much as is given 
them ; but they laughed at, and wholly ne- 
glected my prescription of frequent ablutions. 
Some few r cases of calculus came under my 
notice, but, I believe, they are not common, 
nor have they any knowledge of performing 
an operation to relieve it. I saw no in- 
stances of leprosy in Oman. Two cases of 
dracunculus were shown me : their mode of 
extraction is the same as that of India. 

In the eleventh and twelfth centuries the 
Arabians are well known to have carried 
their researches into the vegetable kingdom 
to a very great extent. They also possessed 
an extensive acquaintance with the science 
of medicine, and modern physicians grate- 



XIX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 313 

fully acknowledge various articles of high re- 
pute for which their materia medica is in- 
debted to the Arabs ; but in neither of those 
branches do they at present possess even re- 
spectable attainments. In fevers they wholly 
abstain from animal food, drink copiously of 
sherbet, and partake freely of melons, cu- 
cumbers, and other cooling vegetables. At 
Neswah, which contains nearly a thousand 
inhabitants, I found it impracticable to pro- 
cure an individual who could let blood: Gun- 
shot and sabre wounds, where every one car- 
ries a matchlock and sword, are of frequent 
occurrence, but their treatment is equally 
simple, though, from their plain diet, and 
temperate habit of body, they are in many 
instances uncommonly successful. 

Encircled as Maskat is by naked rocks, 
the sun's rays become there concentrated as 
into a focus, and the heat at certain seasons 
is almost intolerable. On the 10th of April, 
at five in the evening, Fahrenheit's thermo- 
meter was 106°, and then not a breath of 
wind was stirring. Very generally, however, 
during the day this extreme heat is moderated 
by cool and refreshing sea-breezes. 



314 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

The general state of the atmosphere will be 
best exhibited by a reference to the abstract 
of the Meteorological Register which is sub- 
joined. Rain falls from October to March, 
but rarely more than three or four days in 
each month, when the storms, though heavy, 
are partial. The lofty summits of the Jebel 
Akhdar arrest the clouds in their progress, 
and copious showers give rise to numerous 
streams, which flow down and cross the plains 
on either side the chain. Snow and ice in 
the winter months in those regions are not 
unknown, and in that of March hail-storms 
frequently pass over the plains below. The 
dews at night are singularly copious, leaving 
upon the trees and surface of the ground the 
same effects as would be produced by smart 
rain. On the Desert the atmosphere is usu- 
ally clear and cloudless, and in the day the 
sky is of the deepest blue. At night the stars 
shine forthwith a brilliancy unknown in other 
climes. The cold at that season, as in all other 
sandy tracts, is proportionate to the heat of 
the day ; but fevers appear to be unknown 
there; and the Bedowin who sleeps in the 
sand receives additional vigour and vivacity 



XIX.] TRAVELS IN OMaN. 315 

from the purity of the air he breathes in his 
slumbers. 

Primitive limestone is the predominant rock 
in Oman, the principal chain of mountains 
being almost solely of this formation, and it 
enters largely into the composition of the in- 
ferior ranges. 

In the northern provinces, and on the sea- 
shore in the vicinity of Maskat, hills rising 
one thousand five hundred and sometimes 
two thousand feet in height are composed 
wholly of mica slate, deposited in thin folds, 
and twisted into a variety of tortuous forms. 
In the vicinity of Ras Mussendom there are 
basaltic rocks, in some places forming steep 
acclivities, and in others assuming the shape 
of mountain-caps. Arabia has been pro- 
nounced to be wholly destitute of the pre- 
cious metals, but in this province we meet 
with silver associated as is usual with lead. 
Copper is also found : at a small hamlet on 
the road from Semed to Neswah there is a 
mine which the Arabs at present work, but 
the others are wholly neglected. Even in 
the vicinity of Maskat the hills are very 
metalliferous. No precious stones, as far as 
I can learn, have at any time been found. 



316 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 



CHAPTER XX. 

Commercial Advantages of Oman — Simple Habits of the People 
— Deficiency of internal Commerce explained — Natives of the 
Sea-coast — Early Commercial Enterprise — Loiv State of 
Learning, Arts, and Manufactures — General Indifference to 
Knowledge — An Exception — Sayyid Ibn Kalfdn — Sugar 
Manufactory — Cotton Cloths — The Lungi — Silk-weavers — 
Camalines — Ulwah — Sweetmeats — Honey — Vineyards — Arti- 
sans — Manufactory of Arms — Female Ornaments — Pureness of 
Gold—R eligious Tenets — Population — Original Stock— Feuds 
— Honour and good Faith — General Character — Foundation 
of Quarrels — Morality — Ceremonious Behaviour — Salutations 
— Simplicity. 

If we consider the advantageous position of 
Oman, as an emporium for the trade of India, 
Persia, and Arabia, it cannot fail to strike us 
with surprise that the province generally has 
never reached any considerable degree of 
commercial importance. We find, on the 
contrary, that, with the exception of Maskat, 
Sohar, and Kilhat, which collectively enjoyed 
but a scanty portion, even at the period when 
the main stream of that immense commerce 



XX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 317 

flowed from India, past its ports, to Eu- 
rope, enriching every country in its course, 
Oman alone was exempted from sharing in 
its benefits. But, in a country where, from 
the frugal habits of its people, the artificial 
wants are few, and its natural wants are, as 
in this instance, supplied by agricultural re- 
sources, there cannot exist much internal 
commerce. Its people are therefore in a 
measure independent of other nations, and 
too proud of their birth, country, and freedom, 
to mingle with their less fortunate neighbours : 
they have ever retained the same isolated 
and original condition. The only class who 
do engage in commercial pursuits are those 
residing near the sea, where we may infer 
that, while attending their fisheries along an 
extensive line of coast, they first acquired a 
disposition for enterprise and navigation. In 
the latter they must at an early period have 
attained considerable perfection, since we 
learn* that their ships, in the twelfth cen- 
tury, sailed from Sohar on distant voyages, 
even so far as China. At present nearly the 
whole of the commerce of Oman passes 

* Geo. Nubiensis. 



318 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

through the hands of the merchants at Mas- 
kat ; and I have given in my account of that 
city all the necessary details. Its several 
branches at Sur, Burka, Sohar, and Schi- 
nas, are of minor importance, being princi- 
pally confined to the exportation of dates, for 
which they receive in exchange grain, Indian 
cloth, and fire-wood. The existing state of 
learning, the arts, and manufactures, does not 
in Oman rise superior to the low ebb at which 
they are found in other parts of Arabia : in- 
deed, in all these respects, they are far infe- 
rior to their neighbours of Yemen. Though 
I purposely sought amidst the most intelligent 
persons, I found but one who had any know- 
lege of astronomy, or indeed of literature or 
of the sciences generally ; nor do they pos- 
sess a wish to cultivate them. We must not, 
however, on this account conclude that there 
is any want of capacity or intellect. One 
individual in particular, named Sayyid Ibn 
Kalfan, who had been educated in Calcutta, 
was sufficiently versed in nautical astronomy 
to be able to take the sun with a sextant and 
artificial horizon, to calculate his observa- 
tions, and to rate chronometers. He had 



XX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 319 

been in command of several of the Imam's 
largest ships, and has on more than one occa- 
sion navigated the Liverpool (74) between 
Zanzibar and Maskat*. 

My instruments excited at first more atten- 
tion than I desired ; but this feeling soon 
died away when they were informed they 
were not made of gold. I could not, during 
my stay, obtain a book or manuscript on any 
other subject than commentaries on the Ko- 
ran and divinity in general : on these points, 
together with reading and writing, their chil- 
dren are alone instructed. 

At some of the principal towns sugar is ma- 
nufactured in large quantities; but although 
the cane is of a very superior quality, the 
material, owing to some difficulty which they 
cannot get over in granulating it, has but an 
indifferent appearance ; it forms, however, the 
principal export from Maskat, where, as well 
as at Neswah, and several of the other princi- 
pal towns, they manufacture large quantities 

* As a specimen of his proficiency in the English language, I 
present the reader, in the Appendix, with letters addressed by 
him to me. Besides exhibiting a considerable portion of natural 
talent, they are curious in many other points of view. The polished 
blade-bone of a camel serves them as a tablet to write on, and 
they use a kind of ink easily obliterated. 



320 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH.; 

of ulwah, a mixture of sugar, honey, ghee, and 
almonds, boiled to a dense paste, of which 
large quantities are sent to India and Persia 
in shallow earthen basins about ten inches in 
diameter. They manufacture a sweetmeat 
similar to this in Syria, from the expressed 
juice of the grape; an inferior kind is also 
made from the karub or locust tree, which, 
when boiled to the consistency of honey, is 
called dibs by the natives ; and from the 
Arabian being the same as the Hebrew, ttai 
is most probably the article translated honey, 
with which the land of Canaan was said to 
abound. Wherever in Syria or Palestine 
there are vineyards, it is still met with ; and 
when mixed with the juice of the olive, forms 
a principal article of food with the poorer 
classes. By adding the ground pulp of the 
sesamum orientale to this dibs, and baking 
both lightly in an oven, it is rendered 
into ^ylfc hlewy. Cotton, canvass, and cot- 
ton cloths of a coarse texture, are manufac- 
tured by the men at their own houses. Of 
these, the Lungi is the most common and 
valuable ; they are mostly about ten feet long, 
and two feet six inches, or three feet broad, 



XX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 321 

and striped horizontally with red and blue. 
They are used either to bind round the waist, 
or as turbans ; their price varies from five to 
ten dollars. The females spin and prepare 
the yarn. At Beni Abu Hassan. I saw in an 
open shed about thirty silk weavers at work : 
the colours were good, but the workmanship 
was coarse, and the devices rude. In the 
northern provinces, the kamaline (a large 
woollen cloak) is fabricated ; but their quality 
is far inferior to those brought from Nejd. 

I have elsewhere had occasion to observe 
that there are but few artisans in Oman. At 
the principal towns blacksmiths manufacture 
spear-heads, the crooked dagger, called a 
jambir, and some rude knives : copper pots 
and dishes are also made by another class ; 
but silversmiths are far more numerous than 
either. Considerable sums are lavished by 
the females in the purchase of various silver 
ornaments, and their children are literally 
burdened with them. I have counted as 
many as fifteen ear-rings on either side ; and 
their heads, breasts, arms, and ancles, are 
decorated with the same profusion. There 
are also many workers in gold, but the articles 

VOL. I. y 



322 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH- 

which they turn out of hand appear not well 
finished : the metal they use seems of the 
purest kind. 

As regards their religious tenets, the people 
of Oman belong to the sect of the Khuwari- 
jites*, a class of Mohammedans found also in 
other portions of the East, widely distant 
from the country I am now describing. The 
cities of Nafusa and Jarba, in Northern Africa, 
formerly subject to the Grand Signior, and that 
of Jebel Musib, a dependency of the Emperor 
of Morocco, still profess the peculiar doctrines 
of the Khuwarijites. These heretics the Sool- 
tan has made many efforts to chastise ; but 
from the utter scarcity of water which prevails 
in the country intervening between him and 
them, his attempts have been in every in- 
stance unsuccessful. Like the Moravians of 
Christendom, the Khuwarijites highly value 
themselves on being followers of the pure tenets 
of their prophet, unalloyed by any intermixture 
with the heresies which at different periods 
have sprung up in the Mohammedan world. 
We must, however, consider this to apply 
chiefly to the inhabitants of the Desert, and 
small inland towns ; for as to the Arabs resi- 

* Called also " Biazi." 



XX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 323 

dent at the sea-ports, or in large trading 
cities, they, from causes similar to those 
which influence the professors of a purer 
faith, under similar circumstances, have be- 
come more lax in their religious discipline ; 
and Shiahs, Sunnis, and Metawalis, sects 
which immigrated into Oman at a compara- 
tively recent period, abound there. These, 
in the true spirit of Mohammedan prose- 
lytism, are incessantly labouring to gain over 
the pure Khuwarijites to their own way of 
thinking, though hitherto, I believe, with little 
success. At one period, also, a great number 
of the Khuwarijite Bedowins dwelling around 
the towns became followers of the Wahhabis ; 
and since the defeat of those fanatics, have 
joined one or other of the heresies just 
alluded to. 

As regards the ceremonial portion of the 
faith professed by this class, their practice 
seems distinguished by a much greater sim- 
plicity than belongs to most other Moham- 
medan sectaries. At the birth of a child, for 
instance, nothing more is at present thought 
necessary than the rite of circumcision at the 
usual age, common to all Moslem professors ; 

y 2 



324 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

for though some few voluntary ceremonies, 
including a sacrifice, were formerly admitted, 
these have been long laid aside. Their 
funerals are also conducted with little ex- 
ternal display. They merely wash the body 
carefully, while one of those present recites 
certain prayers composed for the occasion. It 
is true that a few ignorant and extravagant 
persons sometimes spend great sums of money 
in providing sumptuous entertainments for 
the mourners ; but among the higher classes 
of the natives these practices are unknown. 
In truth, they are directly opposed to the 
precepts of the Koran, where the Prophet 
commands food to be given to those only who 
have been immediately concerned in deposit- 
ing the body within the grave. 

The lawfulness or unlawfulness of the use 
of coffee, owing to the word signifying an in- 
toxicating liquor, as well as a refreshing drink 
made from berries, has been a subject of con- 
troversy among Mohammedan professors, and 
is thus disposed of by the Khu warij ites in gene- 
ral. They affirm, that a certain saint of distin- 
guished piety, on one particular occasion, was 
desirous of passing the whole night in prayer 



XX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 325 

and supplication to the Almighty, but sleep 
overpowered him. He therefore resorted to 
this drink, one of whose known effects is to 
produce extreme watchfulness ; and finding 
that it completely banished his former drowsi- 
ness, he named it " coffee," that is, a stimu- 
lating liquor. The authority and example of 
this learned and pious Moslem, as well as the 
known fact, that many of the most eminent 
expounders of the law were equally favour- 
able to its general use, had due weight with 
the Khuwarijites; and in consequence, the 
use of coffee became universal. They further 
assert, in defence of the practice, that not the 
slightest passage prohibitory of this favourite 
beverage can be traced in the Koran, or any 
other orthodox Mohammedan work *. 

One remarkable peculiarity in the opinions 
of the Khuwarijites consists in the jealousy 
with which they disclaim connexion with any 
of the numerous other sects into which the 
disciples of the Prophet have been split. " We 
approximate," says a native writer, indignant 

* Notwithstanding this, I must observe that the Imam, and 
some other strict Moslems, from religious scruples, entirely abstain 
from this beverage. 



326 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

at the bare supposition that the people of 
Oman had ever been an offset of any one of 
these — " we approximate not to any sect, nor 
does any sect approximate to us. How can 
we be in alliance with those innovators who 
oppose God's religion ?" 

In the true spirit of intolerance, he then 
proceeds to denounce all those whose faith 
differs from his own. " We conclude such to 
be devoted to ruin ; enemies of God ; infidels, 
whose portion hereafter shall be in Gehenna 
for ever. They deny the eternity of future 
punishments ; they diminish the enormity of 
sin ; we enhance it. The portion of the wicked 
surely will be for ever, for God is great*! 
Their doctrines content not our intelligent 
ones; away with it ! away with it!" 

The same writer mentions the existence of 
a tradition that the Mussulmans were to be 
divided into no less than seventy-three sects, 
of which, in course, only one could be ortho- 
dox ; and hints the people of Oman is that 
one, grounding his opinion on the sense of the 
Arabic word <u>Jj, which signifies " escaping," 
as well as " safe." In fact, the great points 

* From a MS. in the Author's possession. 



XX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 327 

of contention between the Khuwarijites and 
their co-religionists may be said to spring 
from another famous and oft-disputed ques- 
tion, whether Mohammed actually saw the 
Deity or not ? The Sunnis strenuously main- 
tain that he did, which their antagonists as 
strenuously deny, asserting that such an opi- 
nion is in fact infidelity ; and " to say God 
can be seen, being to limit and circumscribe 
the illimitable and incomprehensible, is there- 
fore absurd*." The Khuwarijites reject the 
interpretation of those verses of the Koran 
brought forward by the Sunnis to confirm 
their own peculiar views, and assert that 
these passages are to be received in a figura- 
tive, and not in a literal sense. Moses, for 
example, is said to have seen God ; but this 
they will have to mean simply, that he wit- 
nessed the effects of His power and majesty, 
not that he viewed him face to face. Thus, 
again, as regards the Moslem belief respecting 
the scales of the day of judgment, in which 
all men are to be weighed ; and the bridge 
El-Sirat, leading towards the gates of Para- 
dise. The former, say the Khuwarijites, is a 

* MS. quoted above. 



3'28 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

mere metaphorical expression, accordant with 
the usual style of oriental phraseology, which 
any one will readily comprehend ; the latter 
means nothing more than the narrow path 
of truth. 

The Sunnis again, divide the wicked into 
two classes ; the first consisting of infidels 
and pagans, the second of reprobates and 
apostates; but they refuse to style the latter 
infidels, however unworthy as Moslems they 
may happen to be. The Khuwarijites, on 
the contrary, more strict and more conscien- 
tious, consider all who have once renounced 
their faith to be unbelievers, distinguishing, 
however, the infidelity of grace from the in- 
fidelity of reprobacy; and look upon all 
pagans, in which denomination they include 
Christians, as coming under this latter class. 

Furthermore, the Sunnis assert the infal- 
libility and divine authority of the prophet's 
companions, saying it is a sin to disobey their 
concurring determination, and that they in- 
herited the right of true judgment. This, 
also, the Khuwarijites deny, on the plea that 
if the son of Noah — the child of a prophet — 
did wrong, so might a prophet's follower. 



XX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 329 

They accuse both Siinnis arid Shiahs of 
error, in making certain texts of the Koran 
apply only to the prophet's descendants, 
when, according to the interpretation of the 
Khuwarijites, they have reference to the faith- 
ful of every rank and station. Finally, they 
deny that the authority of the four first Imams 
is to be implicitly followed, as, in that case, 
both All and Abu Bekr were in error ; the 
one for permitting a decision to be made by 
the Koran, the other for usurping an authority 
which was hereditary in the Prophet's family. 
Their own Imam they regard in two points 
of view — as a temporal governor, and an abso- 
lute indefensibly appointed sovereign, whose 
authority is of God. 

As to the derivation of the name of Khuwa- 
rijites, these writers assert that Muwaiyah 
having rebelliously opposed All, after some 
contest, finding himself about to be worsted, 
proposed a reference to the Koran. His ad- 
versary consented ; but some of All's followers 
protested against this mode of procedure, urg- 
ing that rebels and sinners against God were 
not fit judges of the Imamship ; that if they 
decided against him, his adherents must be 



330 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

regarded in the light of supporters of usurpa- 
tion and tyranny, and that they could not 
accept an Imam of their choice. All refusing 
to listen to them, they departed from him ; 
hence the derivation of the name of Khuwa- 
rijites — that is " seceders." Their first step 
was to appoint an Imam of their own, main- 
taining that All resigned his right to that 
office by allowing his pretensions to be de- 
cided upon by those who were not Imams, and 
thus rendered it lawful for the Khuwarijites 
to do the same. They likewise charge All 
with the slaughter of many of their sect, and 
that he died without repentance, since he 
exhibited none of the evidences which are 
considered necessary corroborations of such 
a state. Of two of these requisite proofs, viz., 
restitution and reparation, he certainly made 
no manifestation, nor did this sect ever suffer 
their faith to depend upon him, nor do they 
shape either their faith or their notions of 
right by the example of the great doctors, but 
from the harmonious concurrence of the 
" Book." 

Respecting Harut and Marut, to whom con- 
siderable allusion is made in the religious 



XX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 331 

treatises of the Moslems, they strenuously 
endeavour to combat the received opinion 
that they were angels sent by God to Babylon, 
where they committed adultery with Zahrat, 
or Venus. Even admitting them to have 
been angels, say they, we are not authorised 
in accusing them upon less evidence than the 
divine law enjoins ; and, by the word of God, 
no believing person can be accused of that 
crime, except on the testimony of four eye- 
witnesses. Without such proof, those who 
originate the charge are to be received as 
liars, and are liable to the judgment ap- 
pointed for such. The Khuwarijites do not 
regard Harut and Marut as celestial creatures, 
but as two eminent citizens of Babylon, com- 
missioned by God to reveal to their fellow-men 
the difference between right and wrong ; the 
indifferent and the permitted ; with a know- 
ledge of the nature and peculiarities of lan- 
guage. Indeed, the opinion that they were 
men, and not angels, receives some additional 
confirmation from the Arabic word applied to 
these beings, signifying " kings or princes " 
only. 

In closing my brief and imperfect sketch of 



332 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

this remarkable scion of Mohammedanism, of 
which, however, except in Sale's preliminary 
discourse, affixed to his translation of the 
Koran, I am not aware we have any previous 
information ; I shall merely notice their pe- 
culiar interpretation of that famous passage 
where it is said that God and his angels pray 
unto Mohammed. " O ye who believe, pray 
unto, and salute him with salutations." Now 
Mohammed being a servant of God, how, con- 
sistently, can He be said to pray to him ? 
Their writers, finding this a somewhat em- 
barrassing question, meet it by a rather in- 
genious evasion. They assert that the words 
refer to a common expression of all Moham- 
medans, when speaking of their Prophet, viz., 
" The blessing and peace of God be upon 
him," and addressed by men to God, not to 
the Prophet. The phrase, " pray unto him," 
meaning in reality, pray with respect to him. 
In like manner is the same prayer addressed 
by angels to God in his behalf, just as they en- 
treat him to grant pardon and forgiveness to all 
Moslems : that Mohammed was in a remark- 
able manner the deputy of God, being privi- 
leged to communicate with him by articu- 



XX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 333 

late sounds, by the hearing of the ear, and 
the utterance of the tongue; therefore, say 
they, in a minor sense, God prayed unto, i. e., 
requested him. 

Although the Khuwarijites regard the Imani- 
ship, when once lawfully obtained, as a kind 
of pontificate almost infallible, their argu- 
ments upon the subject much resemble 
those which we might imagine a Transalpine 
Roman Catholic, who asserts the sole infalli- 
bility of the Pope, might urge, if that Pope 
became a heretic and schismatic, and wished 
to use his alleged infallibility for the enforce- 
ment of his opinions. He might justly argue, 
that his opinions annulled his office, although 
the dilemma still remains of regarding infal- 
lible opinions as fallible. We may further 
observe, that the discrepancies in Moham- 
medan sects are irreconcilable, being founded 
upon irreconcilable texts of the Koran, and 
tradition only, nor can it be determined which 
is the repealed, and which the repealing verse. 

These remarks are grounded on native in- 
formation. They were principally furnished 
me by an Arab, a singular character, who thus 
concludes a very curious series of notes : — 



334 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

"From the Fakir, Servant of God, Nasir Ibn 
'Abu Mihan, the Distressed One /" And verily, 
as regards his outward man, nothing could be 
more appropriate than the latter portion of this 
designation. When I last saw him he was 
clothed in rags, the personification of misery, 
and exhibited every symptom of squalid 
wretchedness. A beggar, however, by choice, 
his state of poverty was entirely voluntary, 
for the prince, his master, in consideration of 
his great endowments, has repeatedly offered 
him a permanent and comfortable asylum. 
This he obstinately refuses to accept, pre- 
ferring a vagabond, unsettled condition before 
the favours of a court. He therefore depends 
for his daily sustenance upon alms, bestowed 
by pious Moslems, who regard works of 
charity as an essential portion of their reli- 
gious observances. 

The manuscript itself is really a literary 
curiosity. Some small portion has been al- 
ready quoted, verbatim, in these pages, and 
the reader will perceive it to be imbued with 
a spirit which too frequently pervades religious 
discussions in every country. He will dis- 
cover excessive spiritual pride; the fiercest 



XX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 335 

intolerance towards those professing opposite 
tenets ; and a sort of monopoly of righteous- 
ness, cloaked beneath studied meekness and 
assumed humility. However, notwithstand- 
ing these defects, his treatise certainly dis- 
plays great subtilty of argument, with ex- 
tensive theological as well as historical read- 
ing. Like Hudibras, 

He could a hair divide 

Betwixt the south and south-west side. 

And when considered in reference to the 
notoriously contradictory tenets of Islamism, 
it is an amusing specimen of that singular 
aptitude, possessed by some men, for making 
" the worse appear the better cause." 

Ibn 'Abu Mihan resided in Maskat at the 
time I left Oman. 

Its population must be classed under two 
separate heads ; those who reside perma- 
nently in the towns and oases, and the Be- 
dowins, who inhabit the intermediate De- 
sert. The latter are the indigenous inhabit- 
ants of the country, retaining all the personal 
characteristics of the true sons of Ishmael ; 
the former are fairer, and somewhat more 
fleshy, although the difference is far less 



336 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

marked here than in other settled and civil- 
ized parts of Arabia. Both classes have mixed 
with their Khuwarijite conquerors, whose 
faith they embraced, and all distinction is 
now lost between them ; but they have pre- 
served another, which is forgotten, as far as I 
know, in other provinces. The Arabian his- 
torians derive the present population of Oman 
from two stocks ; Jactan *, the son of Eber 
and Adrian |, the descendant of Ishmael J. In 
Oman, the posterity of the former are styled 
Ummari, and that of the latter GaafTri ; but 
these terms seem peculiar to the province, for 
by other writers the first are called Arab el 
Arabi, or pure Arabs, and the latter El Arab 
el Mustarab ||, or mixed Arabs. 

These two classes in Oman regard each 
other with mutual hatred. The town Arabs, 
independent of this distinction, are also di- 
vided into tribes, who engage as fiercely in 
quarrel with each other as their brethen of 
the Desert; and the detestable laws of blood 

* Jactan the son of Hebra. 

f The Arabs trace their descent as far as Adnan, but not to 
Ishmael. 

% Robinson's Calmet, Boston Ed. p. 570. Ante, a.d. 1817. 
II Mos-Arabes, or Mostse-Arabes. 



XX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 337 

revenge are, if possible, more strictly en- 
forced. Their feuds most commonly originate 
either in these or with the Sheikhs, who have 
constantly some hereditary or personal quar- 
rels with their neighbours. During their con- 
tinuance, hostilities are conducted in the same 
manner, and on the same principle of good 
faith, as in the Desert. Such events do not 
disturb the general tranquillity, and a traveller 
passes through the districts of rival tribes 
without fear of interruption. The agricultural 
pursuits in which they engage are not con- 
sidered disreputable, as in other parts of 
Arabia, nor do they produce the usual effects 
of abridging the invincible attachment to 
freedom — witness the late defeat of the 
Wahhabis, in a pitched battle by the inhabit- 
ants of Bedi'ah, who could only assemble a 
third of the force brought against them. 
Within this favourable estimate I cannot, 
however, include the inhabitants of the sea- 
coast, especially the people of Maskat, whose 
poltroonery has been so often displayed, that 
with the other tribes a Maskatti and an ar- 
rant coward are held to be nearly synonymous. 
The Arabs who inhabit the oases and 
vol. i. z 



338 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

the towns within them are a proud, high- 
minded race, less corrupted or degenerated 
than those who, in other parts of Arabia, have 
passed from the pastoral to the agricultural 
state : their permanent residence and attach- 
ment to the soil has indeed stripped them 
of but few of those distinctive qualities which 
are possessed by their brethren of the Desert, 
They are hospitable, brave, and generous, but 
at the same time vindictive, irascible, and in 
a high degree susceptible of insult. 

The most bloody affrays have originated 
from causes the most trifling; and I will 
mention, by way of proof, an incident to 
which I became an eye-witness. A family 
from a neighbouring tribe being on a visit to 
another in Bedi'ah, the son, a boy about ten 
years of age, while engaged in a struggle with 
another lad belonging to the town, received 
accidentally a cuff, which was intended by 
the father of the latter, who had come to 
separate them, for his own son. The former 
went away crying to his family, who were 
highly exasperated, and immediately took 
their departure for their own tribe. On the 
following morning, a deputation arrived at 



XX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 339 

Bedi'ah to demand some explanation of the 
insult. They sat down at eight o'clock to 
debate upon it, and several times the mes- 
sengers rose, unsatisfied, to depart, in which 
case hostilities must immediately have en- 
sued. The elders of the party, however, in- 
duced them again to seat themselves ; and it 
was not until sunset that the grave matter 
was finally settled. A feast next day to 
about twenty of the offended tribe effected a 
perfect reconciliation. 

A difference in the moral character of 
those residing in towns on the sea-coast, and 
such as occupy the inhabited parts of the 
interior, is also quite as striking in Oman as 
in most other parts of the world. An open 
profligacy of manners marks the lower classes 
within the former, and the habits of some of 
the higher orders are equally sensual and 
degraded ; but I would not be understood to 
apply this generally, and the care taken to 
prevent such irregularities from becoming 
publicly known, is a sufficient proof that 
they are not wholly indifferent to the state of 
their moral character. As far as I could 
learn, in commercial transactions with each 

z2 



340 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

other very little good faith is observed : nor 
does a departure from its principle in their 
social relations affect them to any consider- 
able extent. The discharge of the duties of 
hospitality is as strictly exercised by all 
classes in Oman as in other parts of Arabia, 
and the stranger is everywhere received with 
respect*. As I have treated the subject of 
their religion elsewhere, I here merely ob- 
serve that the inhabitants of Oman are far 
more tolerant than the generality of Mussul- 
mans. 

The most distinguishing and predominant 
trait in the character of the Arabs is their 
plainness and simplicity. It is not only ex- 
hibited in every act of their social intercourse, 
but will also be found pervading every feature 
of their courts of law and of their govern- 
ment. This freedom from pomp and ostenta- 
tion, so different from other Orientals, places 
their character to Europeans in a very favour- 
able light, and is, I think, with others, a reason 
why we estimate them higher in the scale. 
The following are among their most ordinary 
modes of salutation : — 

* In Oman travellers are often entertained in the mosque. 



XX.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 341 

" Salamalicum!" (Peace be with you !) To 
this the person addressed replies — 

" Alicum salam !" (With you be peace !) 
— are words usually proffered upon entering 
a room, or in joining or passing a party 1 on 
the road : 

"Sabalkair!" (Good day!) 
11 Missa ul kair !" (Good evening !) 
" Fe aman Alia !" (Under God's protec- 
tion !) 

" Alia yafazak !" (May God protect you !) 
Either of these forms are used upon com- 
mon or ordinary visits. Upon the entrance 
of the guest, the host and all who are present 
rise and return it, and continue standing until 
he has seated himself. In saluting a Sheikh 
or governor, they add his surname to either 
of the above forms ; and if he is of superior 
rank, kiss his hand. Individuals meeting 
abroad clasp the hand of each other. The 
Imam rises to Europeans visiting him, and 
seats them on his right hand. 



342 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH 



CHAPTER XXI. 

Entertainments — Evening Festivals — Author's ineffectual at- 
tempts to gain admission to — Ardent Spirits — Drunkenness — 
how punished by the Imam — Manufactory of Wine — Gaming 
— Divination — Love of Swinging — Musical Instruments — 
Martial Music — Feast of the "Aid" — War Dance— Condition 
of the Inhabitants — Dress — Offensive Arms — Shields — Food — 
Person and Ornaments of the Women— Sprightliness — Anec- 
dote — Freedom of Arab Females— Sheikh Government — Civil- 
ization. 

The inhabitants of the oases and towns are 
very fond of giving entertainments to each 
other, which are sometimes continued for 
three or four days. Contrary in their feelings 
to other Orientals, they are by no means in- 
sensible to the charms of natural scenerv, and 
their guests are usually received in light 
buildings, (summer-houses we should style 
them) detached from their own dwellings, 
and often picturesquely situated beneath the 
shade of mangoe or tamarind trees. Within 
these they pass the day in feasting, and the 



XXI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 343 

night, if report does not belie them, very often 
in revelling and debauchery. 

I have frequently joined these parties in 
the day-time, but the approach of sunset, 
when all retired to pray, served q,s a pretext 
to dismiss me, and I never could gain admit- 
tance afterwards. That they partake gene- 
rally of the forbidden pleasures of wine can 
admit of no doubt, for large quantities are 
brought from the hills ; and whenever brandy 
or other spirits are smuggled on shore at 
Maskat, (where they are contraband articles) 
the greater part is immediately carried off into 
the interior. Upon my arrival at Maskat I 
found a ship direct from England lying there, 
and the selection of her cargo was somewhat 
singular for a Mussulmann port, for a very 
large proportion consisted of hams and brandy. 
I do not know how far they were successful 
in disposing of the former, but the latter, not- 
withstanding the strict prohibition of the 
Imam, found its way to the shore in large 
quantities ; and I heard from him that nearly 
half the population of Maskat was intoxicated 
during the time the supply lasted. One of 
his relatives even ventured to make his ap- 



344 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

pearance before the Imam in this state ; but 
the next day found him on his way to Zanzi- 
bar, and I am told the offence was not re- 
peated. The more rigid Mussulmanns not 
only hold it unlawful to taste wine, or to press 
grapes for the making of it, but they also object 
to the buying, selling, or even maintaining 
themselves with the money arising from its 
sale. On the Jebel Akhdar large quantities 
of wine is made, of which the inhabitants at 
their meals partake most freely and openly; 
and at all the principal towns where sugar is 
manufactured, they distil from its refuse an 
indifferent rum, which in the country finds a 
ready sale. Gaming, although equally for- 
bidden by the Koran, chess, and some few 
Persian games played with cards brought 
from India, are what they usually indulge in. 
Their other amusements are but few : they 
have their professed story-tellers, who also 
during their feasts amuse them with songs, 
which they perform in a falsetto tone to the 
utmost extent of their voices. Divination or 
augury is practised in a variety of ways. I 
have already mentioned the burning of blade- 
bones, from which the practitioner pretends 



XXI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 345 

to obtain portentous information by means of 
certain mystical characters which appear 
after partial calcination. Certain days in the 
month are set apart as unlucky, and on these 
they will neither fight, land soldiers, or put 
to sea. They have also recourse, for the de- 
tection of theft, to the assistance of con- 
jurors, who follow the same plans as those of 
India. Both sexes are remarkably fond of 
swinging, and sometimes pass hours in this 
exercise ; they seat themselves on a stick 
attached to a single rope, which is usually 
fastened to the branch of a tree. It is 
singular that the Arabians, who, notwith- 
standing the prohibition in the Koran, have 
always been considered a musical nation, and 
in whose language many treatises on har- 
mony have been written, should possess no 
musical instruments of their own, and that 
even keeping them in their houses should 
be considered disgraceful. The}?- however 
neither object nor refuse to listen to slaves 
playing on such as they use, which are 
brought from Africa; the principal one being 
a rude guitar possessing six strings, which 
pass across a piece of parchment, spread over 



346 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

a wooden bowl, and produces notes by no 
means unpleasing. The drum, an invention 
of Arabia, is still used by the same class, an 
earthen jar being very frequently substituted 
for the belly of the instrument. It is often 
used as a call to collect the troops together ; 
a long horn curved upwards is also applied 
to the same purpose. 

At Suwe'ik, I witnessed the feast of the " aid," 
instituted in commemoration of God staying 
the hand of Abraham. It was less showy than 
I have observed it to be in other parts of 
Arabia ; for the peculiar religion they profess 
enjoins individuals of every class to abstain 
from costly articles of dress. They have con- 
sequently no expensive Cashmere shawls, as 
at Shaer ; nor do they paint their faces in 
the same manner, or load their persons with 
such a profusion of rings and silver orna- 
ments. The men amused themselves with 
horse and camel races, and with the same de- 
scription of war-dance as I have described in 
my account of the Beni-Abu-'Ali Arabs. They 
also practised another, which I have never 
seen elsewhere: two lines form at the dis- 
tance of ten or fifteen yards, and approach 



XXI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 347 

each other to the sound of a drum, beaten by 
two slaves* stationed midway between them. 
They proceed at a slow and measured pace, 
until within about two yards from each other, 
and then either party, after simultaneously 
bowing their heads, retreated to the same 
distance as before ; in this manner they con- 
tinued to approach, bow, and retreat as long 
as I remained. 

The condition of the people is in general 
far better than that of most other Eastern 
nations ; and if the good or ill govern- 
ment of a country may be estimated by the 
proportion of those who enjoy independence 
and comfort, or the reverse, that of Oman is 
entitled to hold a high rank. Excepting at 
Maskat, and the other towns on the sea-coast, 
where they are mostly pilgrims, public beg- 
gars are very rarely met. The greater num- 
ber of people appear decently clothed, have 
substantial dwelling-houses, are exempted 
from all imposts and taxes ; and if the country 

* Tn the course of the Narrative it has been mentioned how 
powerfully the organs of this people are affected by their rude 
instruments ; it seems curious, therefore; that they should not 
improve on them. 



348 . TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

boasts no capitalists nor extensive landed 
proprietors, it has also few in very low or 
indigent circumstances. Their wealth con- 
sists in a great measure in their date groves ; 
every tree is registered, and marriage portions 
and legacies often consist of them alone. 

The dress of the lower classes consists of 
a cloth bound round the waist, called lungi, 
a turban made of chequered linen, manu- 
factured on the Burka coast, and a coarse 
cloak, or kamaline. That of the higher 
orders is composed of a long shirt: over 
this they wear a thin cloth cloak, usually 
of a brown colour, and open at the front and 
sleeves ; and above all a white or dark- 
coloured kamaline, of very fine texture, 
usually brought from Nejd: a Cashmere 
shawl wrapped round the head as a turban, 
and a girdle for the jambir, completes their 
costume. All classes use the same descrip- 
tion of sandal. Their arms consist of a 
matchlock of the same description as those 
usually found throughout the East ; the bar- 
rel of great length, and ornamented with inlaid 
gold and silver. Their sword is a straight, 
double-edged, thin blade, about three feet in 



XXI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 349 

length, having a long handle, without any 
guard. The jambir, or dagger, is usually 
about ten inches in length, and the haft, with 
those who can afford it, richly ornamented 
with gold. Their shield measures about four- 
teen inches in diameter, and is usually at- 
tached by a leathern thong to the sword. The 
best kind, made from the skin of the hippo- 
potamus, are brought from Abyssinia. Those 
who accompany the Sheikh on horseback, 
carry with them a lance about fifteen feet in 
length, ornamented near the end with a tuft 
of feathers. 

In their diet the Sheikhs and superior 
classes partake of a great variety of dishes, 
which are cooked after the Persian mode. 
Kid, mutton, and camel's flesh — all these 
are somewhat dear, and the cost of a Sheikh's 
table, where hospitality is so freely dispensed, 
must be very considerable. In addition to 
these articles, rice, and large quantities of 
ghi or clarified butter, are principally con- 
sumed. The chief food of the poorer, and 
even the middle classes, consists of dates and 
fish ; both so cheap and plentiful, that even 
their cattle are fed on them. The common 



350 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

people use very little animal food, but they 
have not the same aversion to beef as the in- 
habitants of Hejas and Yemen. They are 
also very fond of wheaten bread made into 
thin cakes, and toasted on the embers of 
their fire, or baked in ovens, built up in 
the shape of a jar. These it requires but a 
small quantity of fuel to heat, and the cakes 
are placed against the sides : very little 
dhurrah is eaten, as the natives say it produces 
flatulence and indigestion. Their corn is re- 
duced to meal by the hand-mill which is so 
common in all parts of the East, and found 
even in Scotland, where it is called a quern. 
It probably may be considered the most pri- 
mitive kind of mill in the world, consisting 
simply of a couple of circular stones, about 
two feet in diameter. The upper one is con- 
vex, and has a handle, the lower concave. 
The grist is supplied through an aperture in 
the former, which is whirled briskly round by 
the hand. Females are generally employed 
in this duty : the operation is slow, and more 
is not usually ground in a day than suffices 
for consumption during that period : the usual 
time for working it is in the morning, when 



XXI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 351 

they accompany the operation by a not un- 
pleasing song. 

Of fruit, which is produced in such abun- 
dance, they partake but sparingly ; but seem 
extremely fond of sugar-cane, large quantities 
of which are daily sold at the market. 

Of fish, the largest, such as the shark and 
dolphin, are, by some strange perversion of 
taste, the most valued. 

In the country, females go with their faces 
uncovered ; but at Maskat they wear a singu- 
lar description of veil of an oblong form, about 
ten inches in length, and seven in breadth, 
embroidered with a gold border. In the 
middle, so as to cross in a vertical direction 
immediately over the nose, there is a piece of 
whalebone answering as a stiffener ; and on 
either side of this two small apertures, through 
which they obtain a view of passing objects. 
Among the lower classes, their dress other- 
wise consists of a loose pair of drawers, with a 
running girdle, and a large gown or skirt of 
blue cotton ; their arms and ankles are deco- 
rated with bracelets and ankle-rings of silver 
or amber; and in their ears they wear a 
variety of rings and other ornaments. The 
dress of the more respectable females is quite 



352 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

as simple, but the materials are silk of Indian 
manufacture ; and over the gown, when abroad, 
they wear a large wrapper. They display 
their love of finery in the gold ornaments with 
which they decorate their heads. A singular 
custom also prevails of staining the entire 
person with henna. Shenna, a moss collected 
from the granite mountains in the Island of 
Socotra, is also used for a similar purpose. 
In addition to this, the lower classes aim at 
further enhancing their claims to personal 
beauty by exhibiting on their arms and faces 
various tattoo devices of a blue colour. 

In their persons the females are tall and 
well made, with a roundness and fulness of 
figure, not, however, approaching to corpu- 
lency. Their complexion is not darker than 
that of a Spanish brunette, and we may infer 
that this is their natural colour, since, except- 
ing in the morning and evening, those who 
reside in the oases rarely leave their date 
groves, and in the towns they preserve their 
complexions with the same care. On the 
other hand, the Bedowin women, who are 
constantly exposed to the rays of the sun, are 
very swarthy ; and the same is observed of 
the men, although the children are equally 



XXI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 353 

fair at their birth. The expression of their 
countenance is very pleasing; their eyes 
being large, vivacious, and sparkling ; their 
nose somewhat aquiline ; the mouth regular ; 
and the teeth of a pearly whiteness. They 
are, without doubt, in point of personal attrac- 
tion, superior to any other class which I have 
seen in Arabia. Of a gay and sprightly dis- 
position, the smile of mirth constantly plays 
about their features ; and any witty allusion 
in their conversation with each other, or ludi- 
crous incident, however trifling, is sufficient 
to excite their laughter. 

In the towns near the sea-coast, females of 
condition are secluded with as much care as 
in any other part of the eastern world; but 
the practice is optional with themselves, and 
they take the liberty of dispensing with it 
when they please. At the house of an Arab 
merchant whom I was in the habit of visiting, 
it was found impossible to restrain the curi- 
osity of the females of his harem, who, desir- 
ous of seeing an European, were constantly 
flitting before the door of the apartment in 
which we were seated. My friend bore this 
with patience for some time, and strove by 

vol. i. 2 A 



354 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

remonstrances to prevent it ; but finding those 
ineffectual, he watched his opportunity when 
I next made my appearance, and turned the 
key of the harem upon the whole of them ; 
but such an outrageous clamour was imme- 
diately raised by its inmates, that he was but 
too happy before I went away to release them. 
There is indeed but little doubt that the 
Mohammedan ladies in Oman enjoy more 
liberty, and at the same time are more re- 
spected, than in any other eastern country. 
During civil commotions, they often take a 
part in public affairs, and in some instances 
have displayed the utmost heroism. 

Amidst the most striking features in the 
condition of this interesting and singular race 
stands their Sheikh government, which, in its 
constitution and operative effects, is a political 
phenomenon in the history of nations. Al- 
though neither a republic, an aristocracy, nor 
a kingdom, it nevertheless possesses the ele- 
ments of them all ; and when we consider the 
ages for which it has endured, the slight de- 
gree of political restraint which it imposes on 
the people, the warriors it has reared and sent 
forth from time to time from its own uncon- 



XXI.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 355 

quered wilds to devastate and ravage other 
regions, it furnishes a subject worthy our 
particular attention and study. 

Arabia was among the first nations which 
felt the effects of civilization ; and although 
it was here that the first large societies of 
men united themselves for mutual protection, 
yet, by an anomaly in the history of the world, 
their government has remained with but slight 
additions to its original simple and patri- 
archal form, from the earliest periods to which 
historical information reaches until the pre- 
sent moment. The remark applies especially 
to the southern part of this vast continent, for 
we learn by the traditions of the country, and 
the authority of eastern writers, that shortly 
after the deluge, a remnant of the few who 
were saved by divine mercy from that awful 
catastrophe, settled at Al Akas, in the pro- 
vince of Hadramaut. These were said to have 
been of the tribe of the son of Uz, the son of 
Shem, and from this stock Arabia is supposed 
to have been peopled. 



2 A 



356 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

Origin of Bedowin Government — Authority of the Patriarchs — 
Bedowin Warfare — Invasion of Aulius Gallus — Defeat of 
Persians, Turks, and Egyptians — Policy of Mohammed 'Alt — 
Causes of the tranquillity of Oman — Power of life and death — 
Anecdote -Attachment to their Chiefs — Contrast between the 
Arabs of the Town and of the Desert — Notice of various Tribes 
— Independence of each other — Transfer of power — Price of 
blood — The Imams Government — Court — Titles. 

It would be foreign to my present design 
were I to attempt to discuss in detail the 
origin and general history of the Bedowin 
government, the cause of its long continuance, 
or the circumstances which have induced the 
surplus population to migrate and carry but 
a portion of its elements to other parts. A 
brief abstract will nevertheless be necessary, 
in order to exhibit the political and physical 
relation of the two classes, which, as scattered 
pastoral tribes, or an agricultural and com- 
mercial people, inhabit the province of Oman, 



XXII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 357 

and which now, in their filiation, dialect, and 
advance in civilization, differ so materially 
from each other, that it has been necessary 
to treat of them severally. 

In the earlier stages of society mankind 
readily acknowledged obedience to the person 
to whom they owed their being. By a very 
natural chain of reasoning we can follow the 
extension of an authority which was vested 
in the father of a family over the different 
branches of it, or, in other words, a tribe. 
This would continue until the number of the 
tribe became too unwieldy to follow up their 
marches, or the scanty pasturage was insuffi- 
cient for the increased number of their flocks*. 
It then became necessary that a portion should 
separate and seek for sustenance in more 
distant provinces. Age for a time would still 
continue to confine the authority to the pa- 
triarch, or his immediate descendants, who 
had conducted them in their wanderings ; but, 
as the latter increased in number and rami- 
fications, it must necessarily happen that the 
heads of the different tribes would select some 
person (though probably the nearer the parent 

* Gen. xiii. 7. 



358 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

stem the better) who, in their precarious 
mode of life, had made himself conspicuous 
by his valour or wisdom, and was adapted to 
be their leader during war, or to preside in 
their councils during peace. As they spread 
forth, they would still view with interest and 
affection the stock from whom they sprang, 
and, upon the appearance of a common 
enemy, would unite themselves by a volun- 
tary and mutual contract to expel him. Should 
their strength at first be unequal to effect 
this openly, they fled to their deserts, at all 
times an impenetrable place of refuge, and 
from thence never ceased to harass and 
annoy the invader until they drove him from 
their country. 

How successful their adoption of this na- 
tural mode of warfare has ever proved may 
be gathered from the result of the different 
invasions which have been directed against 
them. When Aulius Gallus penetrated from 
the shores of the Red Sea, the inhabitants, 
making but a slight resistance, retired before 
him ; but no sooner had they drawn him by 
these means into the interior, where his troops 
began to be wasted by sickness, than they 



XXII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 359 

attacked him with so much fury that he was 
glad to escape with a miserable remnant into 
Egypt, and leave Arabia as unconquered as 
before. In the same manner they rid them- 
selves at a subsequent period of the Persians, 
who at one time, under Nurshivan, possessed 
the greater part of their frontier, including 
Oman ; of the Abyssinians, who ravaged He- 
jas and Yemen ; and, finally, of the Turks, 
who for a period fixed themselves in Yemen. 
It remains to be proved whether the wily 
policy of Mohammed 'All, who is supposed 
to contemplate the subjection of the whole 
peninsula, will surmount these difficulties. 
His former success against the Wahhabis 
affords no criterion by which we can judge ; 
for those sectaries were considered by the 
more orthodox Arabians as a common enemy ; 
and the union of several Arab tribes with his 
own troops alone enabled him to bring that 
war to a successful termination. The late 
destruction of his army — then well appointed 
and well commanded — in the Assa'ir country 
would rather induce us to anticipate no better 
conclusion to his efforts than, as I have just 
shown, attended those of former invaders. 



360 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

The yoke which at several periods was im- 
posed on this people proved so partial and 
endured for so brief a period, that no consi- 
derable change was effected in their general 
character and condition. Arabia, from this 
cause, as well as its peculiar position, has 
been exempted from the mighty tempests 
which have swept the neighbouring nations 
from the face of the earth, and left us nothing 
but their names. Even the mission of Mo- 
hammed, which shook and subverted the 
whole of the civilized world, failed to produce 
any permanent change. A history, therefore, 
of the whole or any part of Modern Arabia is 
valuable, since a picture of what they now 
are will exhibit, with but slight shades of dif- 
ference, what they ever have been. 

Although the Grand Sheikhs of the princi- 
pal tribes have in some cases the power of 
life and death, and also that of declaring war 
and peace, yet their authority in every in- 
stance is considerably abridged by the aged 
and other influential men of the tribe. In 
civil and criminal affairs they act rather as 
arbiters than as judges, and cases of import- 
ance are sometimes debated by the whole 



XXII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 361 

tribe. With an authority so limited, I was in 
a particular degree impressed with the extra- 
ordinary care and affection which is generally 
testified by the tribes of Oman towards their 
persons. There is, in this respect, a marked 
difference between these Bedowins and the 
natives of the sea-coast of Oman and Ha- 
dramaut. 

A few years ago two vessels richly laden 
were cast on shore to the east of Roselhad, 
within the limits of the Beni-Abu-'Ali Be- 
dowins, who with the neighbouring tribe, the 
Beni Geneba, immediately plundered them. 
None of the crew were injured. There was a 
Jew on board who was sick. When he was 
carried to the shore, a Bedowin took charge 
of him, and upon his promising to pay a cer- 
tain number of dollars, engaged to convey 
him to Maskat. Fearing, however, as he was 
very sick, that he might die on the road, and 
that he would then not only lose his reward, 
but perhaps also get into trouble, the Bedowin 
stipulated for a written engagement. As the 
Jew could not write, he dipped his fingers 
in ink, and left them impressed on the paper. 
Upon this the British Resident proceeded to 



362 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

Sur, and sent for the Sheikh of the former 
tribe, who resides some distance inland. 
Fearing the vengeance of the English, whose 
power he had already too severely felt, if he 
came, but dreading still more to refuse, he 
gave an unwilling assent, and proceeded, ac- 
companied by the whole of his tribe, to the 
sea-beach. When there, they strove by tears 
and entreaties to dissuade him from his pur- 
pose of proceeding to the vessel, under a de- 
cided impression, as they explained to me, 
that he would be carried to Bombay, and im- 
prisoned, as before. Nevertheless, he went, 
was received with much attention, and, after 
concluding a treaty, by which he bound him- 
self, under condition of receiving a handsome 
salvage on future occasions, to collect and 
take charge of the property of any British 
vessels wrecked on the shores of his terri- 
tories, he was again landed. The joy of his 
tribe, who remained in the greatest terror 
and anxiety during his absence, now knew 
no bounds ; and, after being nearly suffocated 
by their anxiety to salute him, he was placed 
on the shoulders of two of their number, and 
carried away in triumph. 



XXII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 363 

The Bedowins who traverse the frontiers 
of Oman, as well as those who occupy the 
intermediate space between the oases, have 
lost none of that attachment to a wandering 
life which characterises them in other parts 
of Arabia. It is true they acknowledge the 
authority of the Imam, since their chiefs se- 
cure presents by doing so, and nothing can 
be gained by pursuing an opposite course ; 
but the obedience which is conceded to him 
does not exceed that rendered by the several 
minor Sheikhs to a great Sheikh, or " Sheikh 
of Sheikhs." He can, as with the agricultu- 
ral class, command their services during war ; 
but in peace they pursue, without any inter- 
ference from him, their own nomadic and 
pastoral habits. Aware of the power which 
they would obtain over them, could the Be- 
dowins be fixed in towns and villages, or their 
attention be turned to agricultural pursuits^ 
every encouragement has been offered by the 
Imams to induce them to change their habits, 
nor have they been wholly unsuccessful. 

Impure air, irregular diet, and other 
causes, increase the consumption of life 
within cities, while the labourers who cul- 



364 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [<!H. 

tivate the oases are again less healthy than 
the hardy inhabitants of the Desert. In 
order to supply these deficiencies, a regular 
progressive migration must be kept up, or 
when it fails, as it has done of late years, 
large tracts of cultivated lands become aban- 
doned. Several instances were, however, 
related to me of those who had passed from a 
pastoral to an agricultural state, but who 
could never forget their Bedowin habits, and 
frequently after a residence of many years in 
the oases, would again flee to the Desert. 
Facilities are afforded by those desirous of 
employing themselves in the cultivation of 
the land in Oman, which do not exist in 
other parts of Arabia, since they are neither 
kept in poverty nor ruined by the exorbi- 
tancy of the taxes. 

In the course of this narrative of my tra- 
vels I have given an account of the Beni 
Hasan, Beni -Abu-' All, and the Beni Geneba 
Bedowins; it only remains to notice a few 
others. The Beni Gafari muster eight hun- 
dred men : these, with the Yemani and 
El Arabi, are the most ancient and illustri- 
ous of the tribes of Oman. The latter boast 



XXII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. •»(].'> 

of a descent from the Korish at Mekka. 
The Gafari were originally from Nejd, where 
the parent stem still remains. In the 
seventeenth century one of their number 
filled the throne of Oman, and their present 
chief, Musalim Ibn Massu, still refuses to ac- 
knowledge the sovereignty of Sayyid S'aid. 
I have already noticed that he resides in a 
castle near to Minau, from whence he occa- 
sionally sallies and annoys the surrounding 
country. The Beni Hasan amount to one 
thousand men. They live in various towns, 
but attend only to their camels, and, with the 
Geneba, the Meytin, and the Beni Katub, are 
the carriers of Oman. Their wives and 
slaves occasionally till the ground, but the 
men would consider it a disgrace to do so. 

The Bedowins who occupy the great 
Western Desert have neither houses nor 
tents, but live under the shade of trees. 

It is by no means held binding here that 
the son should follow the occupation of his 
father. The former may sometimes reside in 
the town, and the latter on the Desert ; but 
however long they may be permanently 
fixed, they never forget the tribe from which 



306 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

they sprang; and during the sojourn of Be- 
dowins in Maskat or other towns, they are 
usually lodged with, and fed by such rela- 
tives. 

Such are the principal tribes in Oman. I 
made myself acquainted with the names, 
number, &c, of upwards of a hundred others, 
but as they only vary in these respects, it 
would prove neither interesting nor amusing 
to give the mere catalogue. 

Each of these tribes being governed, in a 
measure, by its own ruler, acts on ordinary 
occasions as a civil community independent 
of its neighbours ; but the smaller are com- 
monly under the influence of the larger 
tribes. Yet this alliance hangs by so slight 
a thread that the veriest trifle is sufficient to 
sever it. If dissatisfied with their Sheikh, or 
they think they can better themselves, they 
quit his protection and obtain that of another, 
very possibly a rival. Thus, their numbers 
and strength are constantly changing, and 
the mal-administration of a single individual 
may reduce his rule over a powerful tribe to 
that over its mere skeleton. This is one of 
the principal features in the Sheikh govern- 



XXII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 307 

merit, and it is one to which they are in- 
debted for a considerable portion of the 
liberty they enjoy. From their jarring in- 
terests and natural love of strife, they are 
generally at feud with some one, and if a 
tribe then finds itself unequal to maintain its 
position, it connects itself with another, or 
even with several others. These irregulari- 
ties, so long as they are confined to them- 
selves, are, in a measure, controlled by that 
part of their system which renders each par- 
ticular tribe amenable not only to the Imam, 
but also to the several other tribes ; and in 
cases where they suffer by any misconduct, 
and remonstrance is found unavailing, they 
do not scruple to avenge their wrongs by 
the sword. But these wars are neither very 
bloody, nor of very long duration. The price 
of blood, repugnant as it is to our feelings, 
seems not without its benefits, for, as com- 
pensation after these encounters is made for 
the slain, men's lives are too valuable to be 
wantonly destroyed ; and the death of a few 
individuals rarely fails to bring the offending 
party to reason. 

Thus they proceed in affairs amidst them- 



368 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

selves ; but if the matter, from the invasion of 
the interior tribes, or from other quarters, 
affects the safety or general interest of the 
province, the whole body, nomadic and 
agricultural, professing a common faith, 
which is regarded with great aversion by all 
other classes of Mussulmans, and recollect- 
ing their common ancestry, unite themselves 
firmly to deliberate upon and to oppose it. 
By such an union this isolated race have 
maintained their independence from the 
early period at which they first settled in 
this province, until the present time. 

The details which I have given of the Beni- 
Abu-'Ali Bedowins indicate a deep-felt at- 
tachment for their tribe, and how freely they 
sacrifice life in defence of its fame. Indeed, 
if we contrast the character of the Bedowin, 
in general, with that of his neighbours, how 
immeasurably he stands before them ! — his 
patriotism and natural independence render- 
ing him as far superior to the Persian — a 
polished slave, — whose best energies are 
chilled by despotism, — as his superior phy- 
sical strength, hardihood, and courage, place 
him before the placid, mild, enervated Hindu 



XXII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 369 

Ail Arab of the Desert knows and displays 
this in his behaviour and conversation. He 
believes himself to be the purest and best of 
the human race, and it is for the indulgence 
of these feelings that he infinitely prefers his 
own wilds to the comparative luxury of an 
abode in cities. Although disputes con- 
stantly occur between Arabs, accompanied 
by violent behaviour and gesticulations, yet, 
even in the extremity of anger, they never 
utter those disgusting epithets so familiar to 
the natives of India or Persia. An Arab's 
phraseology is simple and manly : for were 
he to give vent to expressions directly im- 
peaching his opponent's honour and hospi- 
tality or those of his tribe, nothing short of 
the offender's blood would atone for the in- 
sult. 

With the exception of Sohar, which has 
been under the dominion of another chief for 
some years, the whole of Oman formerly ac- 
knowledged the sway of the reigning Imams ; 
but in 1829, Schinass, and the ports from 
thence to the northward, threw off the yoke. 
The former has since returned to his authority, 
and its fort has admitted a party of Beluchee 

vol. i. "2 B 



370 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

soldiers, but the other portion still, in a mea- 
sure, remains independent of him. 

None of the different forms of government 
in Arabia have excited more attention and 
discussion in Europe than that of the Imam, 
which, from its association of spiritual with 
temporal power, may be compared to that of 
the Pope. Niebuhr, in his visit to the coast 
in 1762, has furnished a full description of 
the constitution of the government of Sana, 
but that of the prince of Maskat differs in 
many most essential points : thus, the former 
rules through the intervention of a divan, 
which serves greatly to controul his power 
and abridge his authority ; while the latter, 
although he is content to leave the cognizance 
of civil affairs to the decision of the Kadi, yet, 
in all such cases as require his interference, 
he possesses the free exercise of his own will*. 

The rule at present exercised over those 
provinces of Oman which are subjected to the 
sway of the Imam of Maskat, is probably 

* The title of Imam, implying " Vicar of Mohammed," is eccle- 
siastical in Arabia, and synonymous with Emir el Nunumim, 
or Prince of the Faithful. It appears to have been assumed by 
the successors of the Prophet. 



XXII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 371 

more mild, equable, and regular, than any 
other in Arabia, or perhaps any native dy- 
nasty of the East. 

Yet, with all his able qualities, the Imam's 
government has on more than one occasion 
been placed in the greatest jeopardy. Ever 
restless, and incessantly on the look-out for 
some pretext to sanction their giving vent to 
a natural love of strife, his relations have 
usually taken advantage of his absence to 
Zanzibar to carry their views into effect. 
The defection of Sohar and the northern pro- 
vinces has already been noticed: and in 
1829 a party, headed by his nephew, obtained 
possession of Maskat, but the British govern- 
ment sent immediate intimation to the Imam 
of what was passing, and were prepared with 
ships and men to aid him in the recovery of it. 
This manifestation was in itself sufficient, when 
it became known, to arrest the progress of 
the rebellion, and the leaders, upon the arrival 
of the Imam, surrendered and threw them- 
selves on his mercy. I believe the imprison- 
ment of his nephew for about a week was the 
heaviest punishment which he inflicted on 
any one concerned. These irregularities ap- 

2 b 2 



372 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

pear inseparable from Mohammedan and 
eastern governments. The son no sooner 
comes of age than he plots against the father ; 
and as the practice of polygamy has a ten- 
dency to confuse the order of succession, 
which here, as in other parts, is nominally 
hereditary, rival claimants seek by intrigue to 
establish and strengthen their cause at an 
early period, and before the death of the 
reigning prince. No sooner does this take 
place, than a general scene of strife and con- 
tention arises ; the various Bedowin tribes 
hire themselves to different parties, and the 
contest lasts until the success of one indi- 
vidual more skilful or powerful than his com- 
petitors, obtains the prize. Compensation is 
then made to the friends of the slain, and 
things are restored to their original condition. 
On the death of the present Imam, the govern- 
ment will probably be contested by Saeed 
Mohammed, his nephew, and Sey'd Hilal, 
his son, the former of whom he is said to 
favour. The reigning Imam has also to con- 
tend with another difficulty. Oman was 
formerly portioned out amidst a variety of 
Sheikhs, influenced by separate and jarring 



XXII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 373 

interests, and frequently setting the authority 
of the prince at defiance. Sayyid S'aid has 
in a measure remedied this, by granting these 
governments as they become vacant to his 
own officers, as a reward for military service. 
But in a country like Arabia, the life of an 
individual is too short, and the difficulties he 
has to encounter too great, to enable him to 
establish a fixed and lasting principle of 
government. Yet this great prince, with his 
imperfect means, has done more than could 
be expected of him ; and had he been backed 
by efficient troops, instead of the most indif- 
ferent to be found in Arabia, his career would, 
in all probability, have been boundless ; but 
their want of bravery has occasionally sub- 
jected him to severe defeats. 

His enlightened policy has greatly in- 
creased the commercial wealth and import- 
ance of Maskat, and he has more than doubled 
the extent of territory which was possessed by 
his ancestors on the coast of Africa. Beyond 
the general election of the several Chiefs, the 
theological discourse which is delivered by 
the Imam, and his vow to abstain from enter- 
ing on board ships, no other oaths are required, 



374 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

nor are there any ceremonies of installation. 
His court is small, and almost entirely devoid 
of pomp ; Said na, " My Lord/' is the title 
by which he is addressed, and those who ap- 
proach him salute the back of his hand. 



XXIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 375 



CHAPTER XXIII 

Administration of Justice — Family Feuds — Anecdote — Religious 
Toleration— Districts of Oman — Responsibility of the Sheikhs 
— Right of Appeal — Police— Revenge of Injuries — Govern- 
ment Resources — Revenue — The Imams Household — His 
Muniftceiit Character — Standing Army — Feudalism in Oman 
— Population — Towns— Map of Oman. 

In the administration of justice at Maskat, 
the Kadis take cognizance of all minor 
offences ; but the Imam decides those of 
a graver cast. Although his power in every 
case is absolute, yet his aversion to the spil- 
ling of human blood might form a lesson to 
more civilized potentates : for murder, and 
murder alone, is the punishment of death 
inflicted. In the more distant towns, Sayyid 
S'aid has found it impracticable to abolish 
the sanguinary custom (which exists there in 
common with other parts of Arabia) of the 
friends of the deceased retaliating on either 



376 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

the slayer or his relations ; but these quarrels 
are strictly forbidden in Maskat. As, how- 
ever, they sometimes do occur, notwithstand- 
ing the Imam's vigilance, the relations of the 
person, as in Persia, are allowed their choice 
of demanding the life of the murderer, or 
accepting a compensation. At Siir, I saw an 
old man between seventy and eighty years of 
age, who constantly carried with him his 
matchlock loaded and primed : and upon 
inquiring the cause, was informed that he had 
a quarrel of this nature on his hands. It is 
one of the most remarkable traits in the cha- 
racter of the Arabs, that in the following up 
of these family feuds, they frequently permit 
years to pass before they have an opportunity 
of wreaking their vengeance on the individuals 
concerned. It is strange where religious 
toleration forms one of the most prominent 
features of the government, that a Moham- 
medan is permitted to compound for the 
death of a Banian, by the payment of a sum 
of money for the service of the mosque. 

Oman is divided into districts, known by 
various designations, which also apply to their 
inhabitants. These, as I have just mentioned, 



XXI II.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 377 

are governed by Sheikhs, each of whom is 
responsible to the Imam for the good govern- 
ment of his respective district. All these 
chiefs acknowledge the supremacy of the 
Imam ; and for rebellion, or withholding 
supplies of men when called on to furnish 
them, imprisonment and confiscation of pro- 
perty are inflicted. Sayyid S'aid seems, 
however, much more desirous to conciliate 
their esteem by presents, and to secure their 
co-operation for military purposes and the 
good order of his dominions, than to prejudice 
them against his person or his measures. 
While the attention of the Imam is thus di- 
rected to the interest of his dominions gene- 
rally, the details are left to these chieftains, 
and the power they possess in their several 
districts is still in consequence very consider- 
able. It extends over the persons and pro- 
perty of the people, but not to their lives. A 
right of appeal to the Imam exists in every 
case, his decision being final and binding. A 
Sheikh would therefore find it very difficult to 
abuse his power, and personal security, as well 
as the rights of private property, are generally 
respected by them. They have no regular 



378 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

police for the maintenance of order ; but the 
military retainers of these chiefs are usually 
employed for carrying the necessary mea- 
sures into execution ; and as the Imam sup- 
ports but a small permanent force, the district 
Sheikh employs the same individuals for the 
execution of any order which he receives from 
him. The inferior Sheikhs exercise a like 
authority over their dependents, and the 
father over his family. Beyond the institutes 
of the Koran they have no regular code of 
laws; but when these are strictly adminis- 
tered, they appear admirably adapted to 
meet the cases which most commonly occur 
in such a country. It is, however, by no 
means unusual for the people to avenge their 
own injuries. The adulterer may be slain by 
the offended party if caught in the fact, or 
even within the precincts of his dwelling ; 
and death may be inflicted on a thief, if de- 
tected under similar circumstances. No delay 
takes place in the administration of justice, 
for when any dispute arises, the parties pro- 
ceed forthwith to the Kadi, who, after listen- 
ing patiently to either side, at once decides 
it. In criminal cases, the offender is appre- 



XXIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 379 

hended by certain officers attached to the 
court, and sentence, unless the offence be of 
a nature requiring reference to the Imam, is 
executed as soon as pronounced. Public 
women are permitted within all the towns 
and oases, and no punishment is inflicted on 
those who obtain their favours, whether 
Mussulmanns, Jews, or Christians. Notwith- 
standing the predatory habits of the people, 
they have a great abhorrence of petty theft; 
for a second or third offence of this nature 
mutilation is inflicted. 

The resources of the Imam's government 
consist in the services of the people, and the 
revenue collected at Maskat. The produce 
of the soil is a source of no emolument to him. 
Maskat is indeed the only part of Oman from 
which he derives any revenue, for not a single 
dollar comes from the interior provinces; on 
the contrary, he is compelled during his stay 
in Arabia to expend considerable sums by 
way of presents to the Sheikhs of the various 
towns and oases. The revenue at Maskat 
and Matarah arises solely from the customs, 
no other tax, either on their houses, persons, 



380 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

or property, being exacted. The customs 
are farmed to a Banian for the yearly sum 
of one hundred and sixty-five thousand 
dollars ; and from the African and Persian 
coasts he receives two hundred thousand 
more, which gives an aggregate revenue of 
about three hundred and sixty thousand dol- 
lars. The expenses of his household are not 
great, but he lavishes considerable sums on 
his ships and in presents. His liberality in 
the latter respect almost rivals the tales which 
are told of the Kaliphs of old. All his rela- 
tions are supported by him, and his presents 
to strangers who visit him are magnificent in 
the extreme ; and it rarely happens that the 
poorest Arab is allowed to depart without 
receiving some token by which he may re- 
member the visit. Bedowins arriving in 
Maskat are fed at his expense, and when they 
depart are provided with as much food as 
they can carry away with them. I was once 
present when one of the men entrusted with 
the charge of his horses entered the chamber, 
and reminded his Highness that when he had 
been looking at them on the previous even- 



XXIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 381 

ing he received no present. The Imam 
listened patiently to his tale, and then di- 
rected the treasurer to present him with ten 
dollars. Such generosity is esteemed by the 
Arabs as the greatest virtue which a prince 
can possess, while the opposite extreme is 
held in equal detestation. Speaking of Sayyid 
S'aid, whose liberality has obtained for him 
the designation of the second Omar, they 
observe that he never refuses what is asked 
from him ; and that for the customary offer- 
ing to a superior so general throughout the 
East, the Imam usually returns its value one 
hundred fold ; and for any works executed by 
his order, he pays a higher rate than other 
individuals. 

The only permanent force which the Imam 
keeps at Maskat is a small body of four hun- 
dred men, accoutred in the same manner as 
the sepoys of India. Some of these are also 
his domestic slaves, but upon occasions which 
might require it, he could from Southern 
Oman collect in three days an army of ten 
thousand men, and afterwards increase the 
number to thrice the amount, by the accession 
of several Bedowin Sheikhs and their fol- 



382 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

lowers, who would readily join for the sake of 
the share in the plunder, and the occasional 
presents which they obtain from him. 

In conclusion, I cannot but notice that, in 
some of its prominent features, a considerable 
resemblance may be traced between the pre- 
sent government of Oman and that of the old 
feudal states in Europe. We have there, in 
the person of the Imam, the representative of 
the regal power : the chiefs, on whom he has 
bestowed governments, as a reward for fight- 
ing under his banner when called upon, re- 
semble the feudal barons ; while the people, 
released from all taxes, hold possession of the 
soil by the same tenure as the ancient vassal, 
viz., that of military service. A castle or 
tower is attached to each of these govern- 
ments; and, whenever the authority of the 
Imam has not been well supported, the chiefs 
who held possession of them, like the barons, 
have called around them their retainers, and 
bid him open defiance. 

Owing to the wandering habits of the Be- 
dowins, it is very difficult to fix with precision 
the amount of the population of this province ; 
but, during my stay there, I took considerable 



XXIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 383 

pains to obtain an account as accurate as 
possible. Southern Oman is but thinly peo- 
pled, for the whole number, including women 
and children, does not exceed fifty thousand ; 
but the northern districts are far more popu- 
lous, and probably contain, including Maskat 
and Matarah, two hundred and fifty thousand 
souls, which I am convinced is rather within 
than above the mark. 

The Batna coast, throughout its whole 
length, is thickly studded with towns and 
villages ; and amidst the valleys, wherever 
the ground affords a sufficient space for till- 
age, are found hamlets of ten or twenty houses 
each. 

With the exception of Rostak, which is 
extensive and well built, there are no towns 
of any extent in the interior. Many of those 
which from native information have figured 
in our maps as large cities, and are even 
classed by Niebuhr as principalities, do not 
now rise into more importance than villages 
or hamlets. The ruins of houses, and the 
remains of former embankments, denote how- 
ever both a superior population and more 
extensive cultivation ; but, wherever irrigation 



384 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

ceases, the course of a few seasons converts 
the land, however fertile it may have pre- 
viously been, into a desert. 

All the towns, &c. are now situated either 
within or contiguous to an oasis ; and these, 
with their inhabitants, have been so fully 
described in the course of this work, that it 
would neither amuse nor interest the reader 
were I to recur to them ; but, in order to bring 
any peculiarity or additional information as 
much as possible into one focus, I have added 
on the face of the map a brief description of 
each. 

The direction of my several journeys is also 
pointed out in the map. In order to show 
the degree of confidence to which this may 
be entitled, it is necessary I should state that 
all the principal towns, villages, and oases, 
are fixed from actual observation ; and, with 
the exception of Rostak, which is placed in 
the position it occupies from compass bear- 
ings, and Bire'imah, the frontier station of the 
Wahhabis, there is no place of importance in 
Oman, the geographical site of which has not 
been correctly determined. And here I may 
be permitted to observe that, although from 



XXIII.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 385 

untoward circumstances I was prevented from 
reaching Der'ayyah ; yet, in adding a descrip- 
tion of a province equal in extent to Syria to 
the scanty knowledge of Arabia which we 
previously possessed, I trust it will be appa- 
rent that the several months I remained there 
were neither inactively nor' unprofitably em- 
ployed. 



vol. i. 2 c 



386 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

Habitations — Architecture— Interior of the Houses— The Hareem 
— Slave-trade — The Imam's consent to its Abandonment — Re- 
flections — Description and Amount of Slaves — How distin- 
guished — Value— Kind Treatment — Punishment — Household 
Slaves — Education of Slaves— Historical Account of Oman — 
Our political Relations with its Prince — Russian Invasion of 
India — By what Route — Importance of an intimate Alliance 
with the Imam — His Navy — Port of Maskat — Ungenerous 
Behaviour of the British Government — Conclusion. 

With the exception of Maskat and Rostak, 
where they are constructed of stone, the 
houses throughout Oman are built either with 
sun-dried bricks or loose stones cemented 
with mud. They are, in consequence, far 
from desirable edifices, and a smart shower of 
some continuance scarcely fails to level many 
of them. As some protection from these 
accidents they use a cement composed of 
mud, straw, and pebbles, which is smoothed 
and consolidated by the hand alone. The 
larger sort of houses are of a square form, and 



XXIV.] 'TRAVELS IN OMAN. 3H7 

built round an open court. Around each 
floor there runs a gallery, into which the se- 
veral apartments open. These are usually 
spacious and lofty, with ceilings of wood, 
often painted in rude devices. The walls, 
which are whitewashed, are formed of cane ; 
and around them on pegs hang their horse 
and camel trappings. They make their floors 
of earth smoothed and hardened by rollers, 
and usually cover them with a mat ; but no 
furniture of any description is seen in their 
rooms, their meals being taken on a carpet 
spread for the purpose. These houses have 
but one entrance ; they are surrounded by a 
wall, and seem designed to serve as places of 
defence. The dwellings of the poorer classes 
are of the same materials, and consist of only 
two square rooms, one above the other — the 
upper one answering for their hareem, and 
the under for the reception of visitors. 

'Maskat is a great mart for slaves : nearly 
all those required for the supply of the shores 
of the Persian Gulf, Baghdad, and Basrah, 
are purchased here. The Imams formerly 
engaged in this traffic, and realized thereby 
an annual revenue of sixty thousand dollars, 

2 c 2 



388 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

or about thirteen thousand pounds ; but Say- 
yid S'aid, in order to gratify our Government, 
who were then earnest in their endeavours to 
suppress the trade, with unprecedented liber- 
ality gratuitously abandoned the whole. For 
this he has received no equivalent. Is this 
generous? is it just? To Spain, a Christian 
Government, we gave two hundred thousand 
pounds for a similar abandonment, and re- 
mitted some millions of their debt; yet, to a 
Mohammedan prince, professing a faith which 
openly sanctions, if it does not actually en- 
join, slavery, we have given — our acknow- 
ledgments ! — at least, I hope we have, though 
I have never heard of any. Proh pudor I Let 
not England, who has hitherto stood forward 
in a cause which may be said to have ele- 
vated beyond all others the age in which we 
live, and to have stamped it with a die in- 
scriptive of the purest practical essence of 
Christianity, be outrivalled in generosity by 
the ruler of a remote part of Arabia ! 

I am informed that at Mask at about four 
thousand slaves, of both sexes and all ages, 
are disposed of annually. They may be 
divided into three classes : the Towaylee, from 



XXIV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 389 

the Zanzibar coast, who are known by having 
their teeth filed, sometimes to a point, and 
sometimes in notches like those of a saw. 
They have also some perpendicular incisions 
on either cheek, made with a penknife when 
the children are five or six years of age. 
The scars which remain denote the tribe to 
which they belong*. The price of a Towali is 
from forty to sixty dollars. The Nabi, who 
come from the interior of Africa, are said to 
be vindictive and treacherous. The Bedow- 
ins, here as in the Hejaz, are the only pur- 
chasers. The Gallas, brought from Abys- 
sinia, are highly valued ; they fetch from one 
hundred to one hundred and fifty dollars ; the 
price of the females being about the same as 
that of the males, and strength, health, and 
good temper in the latter, are considered as a 
set-off against the comeliness of the former. 
They bring eunuchs occasionally from Dar- 
fur, which fetch from two to three hundred 
dollars, and are mostly purchased by the 
Persians. Tt is some alleviation to learn, at 
the same time that we are made aware of the 

* Some remarks on this practice may be found in Mr. R. 
Lander's Travels. 



390 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

great extent of the slave-trade in these coun- 
tries, that they are treated with considerable 
kindness. In Arabia, indeed, there is but 
little difference between servitude and slavery; 
for that can scarcely be deemed compulsatory 
where, if displeased with his master, the slave 
can go to the Kadi and demand a public sale. 
This, however, very rarely occurs : the mas- 
ter's authority extends to selling, exchanging, 
and punishing them ; but he cannot, even for 
crimes which the law deems worthy of death, 
inflict that punishment without a public trial. 
If a master furnishes a slave with a wife, and 
she bears sons and daughters, the wife and 
children are sold with the father. Upon the 
death of the master the slaves are usually set 
free. The Mohammedan law forbids the mak- 
ing slaves of Mussulmans ; but a slave brought 
up in that faith, who has been once manu- 
mitted, can again voluntarily engage himself 
to another master. Arabs of condition have 
two or more slaves to assist them in their 
household establishment, besides others who 
are placed in situations of trust. In either 
instance they receive a degree of considera- 
tion and kindness which is not always ex- 



XXIV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 391 

tended to servants in Europe. When pur- 
chased young, they are brought up in the pro- 
fession of the Mohammedan faith, are taught 
to read and write, and, when they arrive at a 
sufficient age, are often placed in command 
of ships or boats, and intrusted with most 
valuable cargoes. 

During my stay in Oman, I made repeated 
efforts to obtain information which would en- 
able me to draw up an historical account of 
the province ; but the difficulties in a coun- 
try where no one commits passing events to 
paper, are insurmountable. I give the result 
of my inquiries as far as they went, observ- 
ing, in passing, that the silence of the 
Arabians themselves, the natural conse- 
quence of their unlettered condition, may, 
perhaps, be supplied from the annals of their 
neighbours the Persians * . In a summary 
of the religious tenets peculiar to this people 
already given, the reader has seen the motives 

* After all, I do not think that my want of success in these re- 
searches will be deemed of much consequence. It will be seen, by 
what I have laid before the reader, that the history of the province 
presents nothing but a series of petty wars and intestine broils, 
and our attention is so divided by the number of personages who 
figure on the stage, that we soon cease to feel an interest in any. 



392 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

which induced a considerable number of the 
Prophet's followers to desert their chief, settle 
in Oman, and choose an Imam or Kalif of 
their own. This event occurred during the 
wars in which 'Ali ibn Talib, the son-in-law 
of Mohammed, was engaged, in order to pos- 
sess himself of the disputed Kalifat ; and 
these seceders then received the appellation 
of " Khuwarijites," a term of reproach their 
sect still retains. 

Excepting during the brief sway of the 
Portuguese, the sovereignty of Oman re- 
mained in the familv of the Yaharabi el 

«/ 

Azad for two hundred and fifty years. I 
think it will be considered sufficient if I be- 
gin with Seif *. 

This Prince, in 1658, drove the Portuguese 
from Maskat : he took Zanzibar, and several 
ports on the African, a few on the Persian, 
and one or two others on the Makran coast, 
with Bahrein, Kishm, and many other 
islands in the Persian Gulf. His descend- 
ants lost Bahrein, which threw off the yoke 
towards the close of the last century, but 

* The genealogy of the preceding Imams is Seif ibn Sooltan, 
lbn Malik, Ibn Adul Arab, el Yaharabi, ul Uzdc, ul Quaiiani. 



XXIV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 393 

have retained the others. Se'if was suc- 
ceeded by Sooltan, Mohammed ben Nasr of 
Ghafari, and Se'if, son of Sooltan. 

The reign of Se'if was stormy and un- 
happy. He deviated from those mild prin- 
ciples of government which had distinguished 
the reigns of his predecessors, and not only 
oppressed his subjects himself, but permitted 
his soldiers to plunder and annoy them. At 
the same time he forsook their frugal habits, 
addicting himself to wine, and other licen- 
tious pursuits, and even attempted the 
chastity of his subjects' daughters. His 
cousins, the elders of his tribe, reasoned 
with him in vain, until, finding the whole 
country was thrown into confusion, and that 
his subjects were gradually becoming more 
disaffected, they at length wrote to Ahmed 
ibn S'aid, the chief of Sohar, who bore the 
reputation of being the most politic of the 
princes of Oman. They stated that it was 
their intention to depose Se'if, and elect 
Sooltan ibn Murshid, one of the same fa- 
mily, in his room, and required his sanction 
and co-operation. Ahmed replied that he 
should in nowise oppose their resolves, add- 



394 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

ing that, since the present Prince had shewn 
himself unworthy of their confidence, he 
would render allegiance to any person whom 
they might deem most fitting to succeed him. 
Before the plot was ripe for execution, Seif 
became in some manner acquainted with it. 
In the first transports of his rage he slew 
all those within his reach, and imprisoned 
others ; but a remnant escaped, and pro- 
claimed Sooltan ibn Murshid to be Imam. 
The greater part of Oman immediately sub- 
mitted to this chief, and district after district 
continuing to fall to him, Seif at length 
found himself shut up in Maskat, his only 
remaining possession. His soldiers, still at- 
tached to him, from the greater license given 
them in the decline of his affairs to rob 
and plunder the inhabitants, garrisoned the 
two citadels which command the town, and 
Sooltan ibn Murshid was unable to approach 
it. He, however, took possession of the 
neighbouring town of Matarah, which has 
also a capacious port, and by reducing the 
duties, drew so many vessels there, that 
Seif, to prevent the utter ruin of Maskat, 
found himself compelled to solicit assistance 



XXIV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 395 

from the Persians, and for this purpose he 
proceeded in one of his largest ships to 
Bunder Abbas. Nadir Shah, then King of 
Persia, who, with a force of ten thousand 
men, some months before, had made an un- 
successful attack on that town, immediately 
acceded to his request, and placed a force 
under Tiki Khan, nominally at his disposal ; 
but that general, at the same time, was in- 
structed to lose no opportunity of possessing 
himself of the whole province. This being 
accomplished, Seif returned to Maskat, 
while the Persians landed at Ras el Kha'i- 
mah. After many conflicts the greater part 
of Oman surrendered to them, and at length 
they approached Maskat, but finding their 
troops were not admitted into the citadels, 
they invited Seif to a feast, and having plied 
him with wine until he was insensible, they 
attached his signature to a written order, re- 
quiring the governors to admit them into 
their forts. The order was obeyed without 
demur, and the Persians thus obtained pos- 
session without striking a blow. When the 
unhappy Prince awoke from his intoxica- 
tion, he found himself betrayed, and, over- 



396 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

whelmed with the misfortunes which he had 
brought on himself and his country, in a 
few months afterwards died of grief. Sooltan 
ibn Murshid took refuge in Sohar, which had 
not yet surrendered, but against which the 
Persians now marched. The Imam was 
killed in a sortie, but Ahmed ibn S'aid de- 
fended himself nobly ; and after a protracted 
siege of eight months, the Persians were con- 
strained to permit him to retain his govern- 
ment, upon condition of acknowledging alle- 
giance to their king. The death of Nadir 
Shah, which followed a few years after these 
events, drew great numbers of the invaders 
to their own country, and Ahmed found little 
difficulty in ridding himself of the remainder. 
This effected, he convened a meeting of the 
chiefs and eiders of the tribes, and reminding 
them that the government of the country be- 
longed to the Arab family, invited them to 
name an Imam from that stock, and professed 
his willingness to obey whomsoever they might 
nominate. Mohammed ibn Sooltan then 
arose, and said that none could advance supe- 
rior claims to those of the individual who had 
rescued his country from the yoke of foreign- 



XXIV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 397 

ers, and taking Ahmed by the hand he pro- 
claimed him Imam ; which election was joy- 
fully acceded to by the others, and ratified 
by the general voice of the people. But 
Ahmed was not destined to hold his office 
without a struggle. Bel Arab el Kamyar, a 
relation of Murshid, and Prince of Gabrin, 
when the intelligence was conveyed to him, 
immediately marched against the new Imam. 
After much skirmishing, Bel Arab was slain 
by a son of Ahmed. By marrying himself to 
a daughter of Seif, Ahmed allied himself to 
the former dynasty, and gave his offspring 
additional claims to the sovereignty of the 
country. 

An account of the fortunes and fate of the 
progeny of this prince may not at first sight 
appear very inviting ; but I have inserted it, 
since it appears to me to furnish a more faith- 
ful picture of the interminable dissensions 
which the Mohammedan system entails on 
Eastern governments, than could be conveyed 
to the mind by the most elaborate disqui- 
sition. 

Ahmed dying, left five sons — viz., Seif, 
Kis, Sooltan, Talib, and Mohammed. Kis 



3.98 TRAVELS 4N OMAN. [CH. 

was chief of Sohar during his father's life- 
time, and also at the time of his death. Seif, 
the heir apparent, was elected Imam on the 
decease of his father, and had a son called 
Ahmed, a wise prince, who conducted the 
affairs of his father's government. Ahmed, 
however, died, and the government then fell 
into such confusion, that the chiefs made 
Sooltan Imam ; but he was slain by the 
Johasm pirates, and Kis sought to be 
chosen in his room. Sooltan, however, had 
left two sons, the eldest, S'aid, who is now 
Imam, and Salem. Budr, the son of Seif, 
had left his own country and joined the Wah- 
habis ; but when he heard of the death of 
Sooltan, he quitted Heraiyat, and became the 
guest of his two cousins, who treated him 
with much attention, and it was agreed they 
should remain on terms of amity. They then 
attacked Kis, their uncle, and drove him 
back to his own government of Sohar ; but as 
it subsequently appeared that Budr had great 
influence with the several Arab tribes, they 
were desirous of seeing him made Imam. 
He even concluded a treaty with the Wahha- 
bis, by which he engaged to pay an annual 



XXIV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 399 

sum of 50,000 dollars, and to hold Oman as a 
tributary possession to their chief. It at 
length became apparent that his death would 
alone ensure Sayyid S'aid's throne and per- 
sonal security ; and he contrived to have him 
assassinated at a small village named Nam- 
han, not far from Burka, on the sea- coast. But 
although he thus rid himself of his formidable 
rival, Sayyid S'aid was not yet left to enjoy 
Oman without a struggle. Budr had previ- 
ously concluded a treaty with Saoud, by 
which he stipulated to hold the province as 
tributary to that prince. This treaty Sayyid 
S'aid now refused to ratify ; and, in conse- 
quence, the Wahhabi Chieftain despatched a 
body of 4000 men, under a warlike and enter- 
prising chief, Sayyid ibn Matlack, to enforce 
it. A series of petty warfare continued, with 
varied success, for some years, and the fortunes 
of Sayyid S'aid were at one time so low, that 
he was compelled to solicit the aid of the Per- 
sians; but eventually the death of his formid- 
able opponent, followed by that of Saoud, 
and the general dispersion of the Wahhabis, 
left him in undisturbed possession of his do- 
minions. 



400 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH 

I cannot conclude the foregoing slight his- 
torical sketch without referring to the state of 
our present political relations with this Prince. 
The fears which have been so long entertained 
with respect to the advance of the Russians 
on our Indian possessions have induced us 
to regard with peculiar interest the various 
routes by which it is probable they might 
approach them. The Russian frontier now 
extends to within 120 miles of the sources of 
the Euphrates ; and our late investigation of 
that river has shown that the passage of an 
army along its banks to the shores of the 
Persian Gulf might be accomplished without 
any considerable difficulty. It has here, as 
with the Red Sea, without due reflection, 
been suggested that a sufficient number of 
vessels could not be obtained to convey any 
considerable body of troops to India. I 
have little doubt Sayyid S'aid could collect 
enough of transports to convey an army of 
20,000 men. His navy consists of four heavy 
frigates, two of fifty guns ; three corvettes, 
from twenty-two to eighteen guns ; and seve- 
ral smaller vessels of war. To these he might 
add his own merchant ships; those under 



XXIV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 401 

Arab colours constantly trading to this port ; 
and beyond all, on account of their great num- 
ber, the services of the native boats or bagalas, 
some of which are upwards of 200 tons. The 
port of Maskat might, in a short time, in the 
hands of a skilful engineer, be made almost 
impregnable. Its situation commands the 
entrance to the Persian Gulf, and its har- 
bours would offer shelter to any number of 
ships. 

Whenever Russia strikes a blow, it will be 
done suddenly. We will not ask where this 
is most likely to be aimed, our duty is rather 
to guard every point to which it might be 
directed. The ships of the Imam of Maskat 
are constantly traversing the Persian Gulf. 
But one or two small vessels of twelve or 
eighteen guns are often the only force we 
have there. What is there then to prevent 
his squadron from forming a junction at some 
preconcerted period with the Russians at 
Basrah ? This might be effected long before 
our naval force in India could be got together, 
or even if well arranged, almost before intelli- 
gence of such event could be conveyed to 
head quarters. Nor should it be forgotten, at 

vol. i. 2d 



402 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH. 

certain seasons, that a month is the least 
period in which vessels proceeding from 
India can reach Maskat. In possession of 
the Imam's navy, the ships # of which are as 
well constructed and as well appointed as 
those of Her Majesty, and manned with 
Russian seamen, they would possess a force 
that would for some period give them the 
naval superiority in the Indian seas. 

With a power that may be wielded, if not 
precisely in this manner, yet in some other 
equally to our disadvantage, let us now in- 
quire what are our present relations with 
respect to this prince. A reciprocal treaty 
of mutual alliance, defensive and offensive, 
was entered into with him, in which it was 
stipulated in Eastern phraseology that " his 
enemies should be our enemies, and his 
friends our friends ;" and up to this feeling 
we have, until very lately, acted. But when 
the probability of our aid being solicited by 
this prince came a short time ago before the 
Supreme Government of India, the passage 
of the treaty which I have given being con- 

* Built in the dockyard at Bombay, and stored, &c., direct 
from England. 



XXIV.] TRAVELS IN OMAN. 403 

sidered by them only in the light of an East- 
ern compliment, it was directed that no assist- 
ance should be afforded him, and the Bombay 
government have not therefore the authority 
to send a single vessel to the aid of one of 
their oldest and most faithful of allies. The 
sacrifice of so considerable a portion of his 
revenue to meet our wishes with respect to 
the slave trade, and his offer even to cede to 
us his territories in Zanzibar, for the further- 
ance of the same object, might, with many 
other instances, be adduced in proof of his 
sincere devotion to us. The knowledge that 
he possessed the support of the British Go- 
vernment has hitherto preserved his domi- 
nions to him ; and was it for certainty known 
that these would be withdrawn, Oman would 
speedily be overrun by the Wahhabis, who 
are in intimate connexion with the Johasmi 
pirates, and who, once in possession of Mas- 
kat, might prove most troublesome neighbours. 
I think it can therefore admit of no doubt 
that the wisest, most politic, and most just 
line of action, which we can pursue in refer- 
ence to this prince, would be to make our 
naval force, as with the native princes of 

2 d 2 



404 TRAVELS IN OMAN. [CH\ 

India, in a measure subsidiary to his own, by 
which, without incurring any additional ex- 
pense, we should at all times have a powerful 
armament at our command, in a quarter 
where it may prove of such vital importance, 
which could always, when required, be fur- 
nished from India with European seamen, 
where at present we have but a trifling force, 
and where, if the Oman government should 
fall into other hands, we might for a time 
have a most dangerous foe. 

The magnificent seventy-four which his 
Highness presented but a few months since 
to his late Majesty had for its object, as he 
explained to me, his allying himself more 
closely with us ; and I have not the slightest 
doubt but that whenever the above proposal 
is made to him, he will embrace it with the 
utmost willingness. 



I conclude my observations on Oman with 
the detail of a short journey which I under- 
took in search of some inscriptions within the 
neighbouring province of Hydramaut. 



XXV.] NAKAB EL HAJAli. 405 



CHAPTER XXV. 

fids ul Ase'ida— Start for Nakab el Hajar — Shells — Diyabi Be- 
douins — Shifting Sands — Excessive Heat — /// behaviour of 
Guides — Caravanserai — Difference in Strength and Speed of 
Camels — Ardk Trees— Curiosity of Natives— Kindness of an 
old Arab woman — Author recognised as an Englishman. 

During our survey of the south coast of 
Arabia, while near the tower called Ba-'l-hafF, 
on the sandy cape of Has ul Ase'ida, in lati- 
tude 13° 57' north, longitude 46|° east nearly, 
the Bedowins brought me intelligence that 
extensive ruins, which they described as 
having been erected by infidels, and of great 
antiquity, were to be found at some dis- 
tance from the coast. I was in consequence 
most anxious to visit them, but the several 
days we remained passed away, bringing no- 
thing but empty promises on the part of 
Hamed, the officer in charge of the tower, to 
procure us camels and guides ; and at length, 



406 NAKAB EL HAJAR. [CH. 

in the prosecution of her survey, the ship 
sailed to the westward. 

On the morning of her departure, April 
29th, 1835, hopes were held out to me that if 
I remained, camels would be procured in the 
course of the day, to convey us to some in- 
scriptions, but a few hours' distance from the 
beach ; and in this expectation I remained 
behind with Mr. Cruttenden, a midshipman of 
the Palinurus, and one of the ship's boats. 

Towards noon the camels were brought, 
and I was then somewhat surprised, after 
much wrangling among themselves, to hear 
the Bedowins decline proceeding to the in- 
scriptions, but expressed their readiness to 
accompany me to the ruins I had before been 
so desirous of visiting. For this I was then 
unprepared. I had with me no presents for 
the Sheikhs of the different villages through 
which I had to pass, and only a small sum of 
money; but what (as regarded our personal 
safety) was of more moment, Hamed, who had 
before promised, now declined accompanying 
me, on the plea of sickness. 

It was, however, an opportunity of seeing 
the country not to be lost, and I determined 



XXV.] NAKAB EL HAJAR. 407 

at once to place myself under their protection 
and proceed with them. Accordingly, I de- 
spatched my boat to the vessel, with an inti- 
mation that I hoped at the expiration of 
three days, to be at the village of 'A'in, on 
the sea-coast, where it could again be sent for 
me. Having filled our water-skins, at three 
p.m., accompanied by an ill-looking fellow 
(styling himself the brother of Hamed) and 
another Bedowin, we mounted our camels and 
set forward. The road, after leaving Ba-'l- 
haff, extends along the shore to the westward. 
On the beach we saw a great variety of 
shells ; among them the Pinna fragilis, the 
Solen, the Voluta musica, and several varieties 
of Olives were the most common. Fragments 
of red tubular coral, and the branch kind of 
the white, were also very numerous. Under 
a dark barn-shaped hill, which we passed to 
the right, our guides pointed out the remains 
of an old tower, but as we were told there 
were no inscriptions, and as its appearance 
from the ship indicated its being of Arab 
construction, we did not stay to examine it. 

At 450 we passed a small fishing village, 
called Jilleh, consisting of about twenty huts, 



408 NAKAB EL HAJAR. [CH. 

rudely constructed with the branches of the 
date-palm. Along the beach, above high- 
water mark, the fishermen had hauled up 
their boats, where they are always permitted 
to remain, unless required for use. In their 
construction they differ in no respect from 
those which I have described in other parts 
of the coast. 

At 7*20, leaving the sea-shore, we wound 
our way between a broad belt of low sand- 
hills, and halted for two hours, about three 
miles from the village of 'Am Jowari, to which 
one of our guides was despatched, in order to 
secure a supply of dates, the only food they 
cared to provide themselves with. Directly 
he returned we again mounted, and at eleven 
hours, the loud and deep barking of some 
dogs announced to us that we were passing 
the village of 'Ain Abu Mabuth ; but we saw 
nothing of the inhabitants, and at one hour 
a.m. halted for the night. 

We were now in the territories of the Di- 
yabi Bedowins, who, from their fierce and 
predatory habits, are held in much dread by 
the surrounding tribes. Small parties, while 
crossing this tract, are not unfrequently cut 



XXV.] NAKAB EL HAJAR. 409 

off, and we were therefore cautioned by our 
guides to keep a good look-out for their ap- 
proach. But after spreading our boat-cloaks 
in the sand, we were little annoyed by any 
apprehensions of this nature, and slept very 
soundly until the following morning. 

The Diyabi Bedowins possess a great ex- 
tent of country, and are very numerous and 
powerful. In their political constitution they 
differ from any other tribe in this vast penin- 
sula with which I have become acquainted, 
either personally or by report. Instead of 
choosing a Sheikh or Sultan as' their repre- 
sentative power, they are split into seven 
divisions, each governed by a chief, called 
Abu, who exercises what may be termed a 
patriarchal authority over them. These chiefs 
assemble for the discussion of all affairs con- 
nected with the general interest of the tribe, 
their decisions being regulated by a majo- 
rity of voices. In certain cases this office 
of Abu is hereditary, but more generally it is 
filled by individuals whose superior sagacity, 
experience, and courage entitle them to that 
distinction. Some peculiar usages also exist 
among the Diyabi Bedowins, with respect to 



410 NAKAB EL HAJAR. [CH. 

depredations committed on the property of 
each other. The Abu is answerable for all 
thefts occurring within his own district, and 
he makes restitution to the injured party, 
provided the offender be unable to do so. If, 
on the contrary, the thief has property, the 
Abu claims for himself a third, in addition to 
the value of the stolen property, as a further 
punishment, and compensation for the fre- 
quent losses he would otherwise be subjected 
to. The Diyabis have few spears, and no 
swords; their arms are a jambir, a match- 
lock, and a shield : they are otherwise dis- 
tinguished amidst the neighbouring tribes by 
the scantiness of their waist-cloths, and for 
the reputed levity and inconstancy of their 
females. 

Thursday, April 30th. The Bedowins called 
us at an early hour, and after partaking of 
some coffee which they had prepared, we 
shook the sand (in which during the night we 
had been nearly buried) from our clothes, and 
at five a.m. at a slow T pace again proceeded on 
our journey. 

At seven hours we ascended a ledge about 
four hundred feet in elevation, from the sum- 



XXV.] NAKAB EL HAJAR. 411 

mit of which we obtained an extensive but 
dreary view of the surrounding country. Our 
route lay along a broad valley, either side 
being formed by the roots or skirts of a lofty 
range of mountains. As these extend to the 
northward they gradually approach each other, 
and the valley there assumes the aspect of 
a narrow defile. But on the other hand, the 
space between our present station and the sea 
widened, and was crossed by a barrier about 
thirty miles broad, forming a waste of low 
sandy hillocks. So loosely is the soil here 
piled, that the Bedowins assure me that they 
change their outline, and even shift their 
position with the prevailing storms. How 
such enormous masses of moving sand, some 
of which are based on extensive tracts of in- 
durated clay, could in their present situation 
thus become heaped together, affords an ob- 
ject of curious inquiry. They rise in sharp 
ridges, and are all of a horse-shoe form, their 
convex side to seaward. Our camels found 
the utmost difficulty in crossing, and the 
Bedowins were so distressed that we were 
obliged to stop repeatedly for them. The 
quantity of water they drank was enormous. 



412 NAKAB EL HAJAR. [CH. 

I observed on one occasion a party of four or 
five finish a skin holding as many gallons. 

At eight hours we found the sun so op- 
pressive, that the Bedowins halted in a shal- 
low valley under the shade of some stunted 
tamarisk trees. Their scanty foliage would, 
however, have afforded but slight shelter from 
the burning heat of the sun's rays, if our 
guides had not with their daggers dug up 
or cut off the roots and lower branches, and 
placed them at the top of the tree. Having 
done so, they quietly took possession of the 
most shady spots, and left us to shift the best 
way we could. Within these burning hol- 
lows the sun's rays are concentrated and 
thrown off as from a mirror ; the herbs around 
were scorched to a cindery blackness ; not a 
cloud obscured the firmament, and the breeze 
which moaned past us was of a glowing heat, 
like that escaping from the mouth of a fur- 
nace. Our guides dug hollows in the sand, 
and thrust their blistered feet within them. 
Although we were not long in availing our- 
selves of the practical lesson they had taught 
us, I began to be far from pleased with their 
churlish behaviour. Every approach I made 



XXV.] NAKAB EL HAJAR. 413 

towards a good understanding was met by the 
most ungracious and repulsive return. 

They now held frequent conversations with 
each other apart, of which it was evident we 
were made the subject, — and they not only 
refused water, except in quantities which they 
considered sufficient, but watched our move- 
ments so closely, that for a time, I found it 
impossible to take either notes or sketches. 

Without anticipating dangers, still it was 
impossible not to feel that our situation must 
have been a critical one, had these men 
played us false. I knew that the natives of 
this district are considered especially hostile 
to those of a different creed ; and that they 
had some years ago cut off the whole of a 
boat's crew of the only vessel that had pre- 
viously touched on their coast, by seducing 
them with promises from the beach ; I could 
not, therefore, but accuse myself of rashness, 
in thus venturing with no better pledge for 
our safety than their promised fidelity. There 
was, however, but little time for such reflec- 
tions, and without evincing any change or 
mistrust in my manner, I determined to 
watch their conduct narrowly, and to lose 



414 NAKAB EL HAJAR. [CH. 

sight of nothing which might be turned to 
our advantage. 

At 10*30 our journey continued over the 
same sandy mounts as before; and at T30 
we passed a sandstone hill called Jebel Ma- 
sin ah. The upper part of this eminence 
forms a narrow ridge, so nearly resembling 
ruins, that it was not until my return we 
were convinced to the contrary. We now 
left the sandy mounds, and crossed over table 
ridges elevated about two hundred feet from 
the plains below, and intersected by numerous 
valleys, the beds of former torrents, which 
had escaped from the mountains on either 
hand. The surface of the hills was strewn 
with various sized fragments of quartz and 
jasper, several of which exhibited a very 
pleasing variety of colours. 

The only rocks we found in the valleys were 
a few rounded masses of primitive cream- 
coloured limestone, of which formation are 
the mountains on either hand, and which 
is indeed the predominant rock along the 
whole southern coast of Arabia. 

A few stunted acacias now first made their 
appearance, which continued to increase in 



XXV.] NAKAB EL HAJAR. 415 

size as we advanced. At four p.m. we de- 
scended into Wadi Meifah, and halted near a 
well of good light water. The change which 
a few draughts produced in the before droop- 
ing appearance of our camels was most ex- 
traordinary. Before we arrived, they were 
stumbling and staggering at every step ; they 
breathed quick and audibly, and displayed 
other symptoms of exhaustion ; but on arriving 
near the water, they approached it at a round 
pace, and appeared to imbibe renovated 
vigour with every draught. Then, after 
browsing for an hour on the tender shoots of 
the surrounding trees, they left as fresh as 
when we first started from the sea-coast. Not- 
withstanding the excessive heat of the day, 
and the heavy nature of the road, it may 
appear strange that these animals should have 
been so much distressed in crossing a tract of 
only forty miles. Camels however differ in 
Arabia, in point of strength and speed, more 
than is generally supposed. The animals we 
rode during this journey bore about the same 
resemblance to those on which I journeyed 
from 'Aden to Lahesdji, as a first-rate hunter 
would to a post-horse in England. Whilst we 



410 NAKAB EL HAJAR. [CH. 

loitered near these wells, an Arab brought 
several fine bullocks to water. They had the 
hump observable in those of India, to which, 
in size and colour, as well as in the stunted 
growth of their horns, they bear a great re- 
semblance. 

Arak trees were very numerous, but taller, 
larger, and of a different species to those 
found on the sea-coast *. The camels ate 
greedily of those we found here, though 
they never feed on the latter unless pressed 
by hunger. This tree, common to Arabia, 
Abyssinia, and Nubia, is found in many 
places along the shores of the Red Sea, and 
the southern coast of Socotra abounds with it. 
Its foliage is of a lively green, which sends 
forth a most fragrant odour at certain seasons. 
The Arabs make tooth-brushes of the smaller 
branches, which they dispose of at Mecca 
and other parts of the East. 

We observed also many tamarisks and 
acacias intermingling their branches with the 
other trees growing on this spot ; the whole, 
at this season, putting forth young buds and 

* The former is the Salvadora Persica, well described by Fors- 
kall as the Cissus Arborea ; the latter is the Avecennia nitida. 
— Deli lie, Voij. en Arable de Leon la Borde. 



XXV.] NAKAB EL HAJAR. 417 

shoots ; so that after our journey over a dreary 
waste of burning sand, their verdure was an 
inexpressible relief to the eye. 

At five p.m., again mounting our camels, 
we continued in a west-north-westerly direc- 
tion along the valley. It is about one mile 
and a half in width, and the bank on either 
side, with the ground over which we were 
passing, afforded abundant evidence of its 
having been the bed of a powerful stream but 
a short time previous. The country also be- 
gins to assume a far different aspect. Numer- 
ous hamlets, interspersed amidst extensive 
date groves, verdant fields of jowari, and 
herds of sleek cattle, show themselves in 
every direction, and we now fell in with 
parties of inhabitants for the first time since 
leaving the sea-shore. Astonishment was de- 
picted on their countenances, but as we did 
not halt, they had no opportunity of gratifying 
their curiosity by gazing at us for any length 
of time. But to compensate for the'r dis- 
appointment, one of our party remained 
behind, to communicate what he knew of us. 
In answer to the usual queries, who we were ? 
were we Mussulmans ? what was the nature 

vol. i. 2 E 



418 NAKAB EL HAJAR. [CH. 

of our business, &c? his reply was, that we 
were Kafirs going to visit Nakab el Hajar, 
in order to seek for treasure. Others he gra- 
tified with the intelligence that we arrived 
here to examine and report on their country, 
of which we were desirous of obtaining pos- 
session. In vain I endeavoured to impose 
silence, he laughed outright at my expostu- 
lation ; while our guides, either disliking to 
be seen in our company, or having some busi- 
ness of their own, left us the instant we arrived 
near the village. 

They returned shortly after sunset, and we 
were preparing to halt near a small hamlet, 
when the inhabitants sent a message, request- 
ing they would remove us from the vicinity of 
their habitations. Remonstrances or resist- 
ance, except on the part of our guides, who 
remained quiet spectators of all which was 
passing without an attempt at interference, 
would have been equally vain, and we were 
consequently obliged to submit. 

Being now dark, it became evident that 
our guides had but an imperfect idea of the 
road, for we had not proceeded more than 
three or four miles, when we found ourselves 



XXV.] NAKAB EL HAJAR. 419 

climbing over the high embankments which 
enclose the jowari fields. The camels fell so 
frequently while crossing these boundaries, 
that at length the Bedowins, affecting to lose 
all patience, took their departure, and left us 
with them, an old man, and a little boy, to 
shift for ourselves. I should have cared the 
less for this, if before stealing off they had 
acquainted the latter with their destination, 
but they had not condescended to do so, and 
we were preparing to take up our quarters in 
the fields. Unexpectedly, however, we fell in 
with an old woman, who, as soon as she was 
informed of our situation, without the slightest 
hesitation promised to conduct us to her 
house. We gladly followed her, but having 
wandered far from the path, we did not arrive 
there until midnight. 

We found our guides comfortably seated 
within a house, smoking their pipes and 
drinking coffee. Though excessively pro- 
voked, I was aware that remonstrance would 
be useless ; and concealing my chagrin, I 
proceeded to secure a lodging for the night. 
But a large party had got there before us, 
and having taken possession of every apart- 

2 e 2 



420 NAKAB EL HAJAR. [CH. 

ment, were busily engaged with their pipes 
and coffee. 

It appears we had arrived at a sort of cara- 
vanserai, one or more of which are usually 
found in the towns of Yemen, as in other 
parts of the East. We therefore requested 
the old lady, whose kindness did not abate 
when she heard we were Christians, to -re 
move the camels from the court-yard, and 
there, after a hearty supper of dates and milk, 
we slept very soundly until about three o'clock, 
when we were awakened by finding our guides 
rummaging our baggage for coffee. At any 
other period I should probably have been 
amused at witnessing the unceremonious 
manner in which they proposed helping them- 
selves, as well as the nonchalance they ex- 
hibited in piling, without ceremony, saddles, 
baskets, or whatever came in their way, upon 
us. But men are not in the best humour to 
enjoy a practical joke, when snatching a hasty 
repose, after a fatiguing day's work ; and I 
therefore, with as little ceremony as they 
used to us, peremptorily refused to allow 
them to remove what they were seeking for. 
As we anticipated, they took this in high 



XXV.] NAKABEL HAJAR. 421 

dudgeon ; but their behaviour, unless they had 
proceeded to actual violence, could not have 
been much worse than it had been hitherto, 
and I therefore cared little for such an ebul- 
lition. 

Friday, 1st May. Although it was quite 
dark last night when we arrived here, and 
we could not but be aware, from the state of 
the ground we had passed over, that there 
must be abundance of vegetation, yet we were 
hardly prepared for the scene that opened 
upon our view at daylight this morning. 

The dark verdure of fields of dhurrah *, 
dokhnf, tobacco, &c, extended as far as my 
eyes could reach. Mingled with these, we had 
the soft acacia, and the stately, but more 
sombre foliage of the date palm ; while the 
creaking of numerous wheels with which the 
grounds were irrigated, and in the distance, 
several rude ploughs drawn by oxen ; the 
ruddy and lively appearance of the people, 
who now flocked towards us from all quarters, 
and the delightful and refreshing coolness of 
the morning air, combined to form a scene, 
which he who gazes on the barren aspect of 
the coast, could never anticipate. 

* Sorghum vulgare. * Sorghum saccharatum. 



422 NAKAB EL HAJAR. [CH. 

At six a.m. we again mounted our camels, 
and passing in succession the villages of 
Sahun, Gharigah, and Jewel Sheikh, arrived 
at another small village, where we had been 
led to anticipate we should meet the Sultan ; 
but finding, to our very great joy, upon in- 
quiry, that he had set off the day before for 
'Abban, we pushed onwards. 

Several people stopped us on the road, and 
saluted us, after the Arab style, with much 
civility. They appeared perfectly satisfied 
with the answer our guides now thought 
proper to give to them, namely, that we were 
proceeding to their Sultan on business. One 
man only recognised us in the course of our 
journey as Englishmen. He was a native of 
Hydramaut, who had heard of the English at 
Shaher, and was impressed with a belief that 
we were proceeding to purchase Hasan Gho- 
rab from 'Ab'd-ul- Wahid. 

At nine hours we passed Mansurah, and 
Sa'id, and arrived at Jewel Agil, one of the 
largest hamlets of the group. Leaving several 
other villages to the left, we now passed over 
a hill about two hundred feet in height, com- 
posed of a reddish-coloured sandstone. From 
the summit of this, the ruins we sought were 



XXV.] NAKAB EL HAJAll. 423 

pointed out to us. As their vicinity was said 
to be infested with robbers, we were obliged 
to halt at a village, in order to obtain one of 
its inhabitants to accompany us to them. 
Our guides, as usual, having gone to seek 
shelter from the heat of the sun, had left us 
to make our breakfast on dates and water, in 
any sheltered spot we could find. The sun 
was nearly vertical, and the walls of the 
houses afforded us no protection. Seeing 
this, several of the inhabitants came forward, 
and offered with much kindness to take us to 
their dwellings. We gladly consented, and 
followed one of them. Coffee was imme- 
diately served ; and it was with some diffi- 
culty, after a promise to return if possible in 
the evening, that we prevented our host from 
ordering a meal to be immediately cooked 
for us. 

This circumstance, combined with several 
others which occurred on our return, con- 
vinced me, if we had been provided with a 
better escort, that after passing the territory 
of the Diyabis, we should have experienced 
neither incivility nor unkindness from the 
people. 



424 NAKAB EL HAJAR. [CH. 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

Ruins of Nakab el Hajar — Position — Ancient town — Inscrip- 
tions — Entrance — Materials used in its Construction — Vast 
Solidity— Interior — Excellent Masonry — Well — Antiquarian 
Remains — Anecdote — General Observations — Burckhardt — 
Origin of Nakab el Hajar — Fertility of surrourtd'mg District — 
Kind Reception from Natives — Best mode of penetrating into 
the Interior — Return to the Ship — " Black MaiV — Anecdote 
of Diyabi Bedowins. 

About an hour from the last village we 
arrived at the ruins of Nakab el Hajar*, and 
a rapid glance soon convinced me, that their 
examination would more than compensate 
for any fatigue or danger we had encountered 
on our road to them. 

The hill upon which they are situated, 
stands out in the centre of the valley, and 
divides a stream which passes, during floods, 
on either side of it. It is nearly eight hun- 
dred yards in length, and about three hundred 
and fifty yards at its extreme breadth. The 

* Nakab el hajar signifies " the excavation from'the rock." 



XXVI.] NAKAB EL HAJAR. 425 

direction of its greatest length is from east 
to west. Crossing diagonally, there is a shal- 
low valley, dividing it into two nearly equal 
portions, which swell into an oval form. 
About a third of the height from its base, a 
massive wall, averaging in those places where 
it remains entire, from thirty to forty feet in 
height, is carried completely round the emi- 
nence, and flanked by square towers, erected 
at equal distances. There are but two en- 
trances situated north and south from each 
other, at the termination of the valley before 
mentioned. A hollow square tower, each side 
measuring fourteen feet, stands on both sides 
of these. Their bases extend to the plain 
below, and are carried out considerably be- 
yond the rest of the building. Between the 
towers, at an elevation of twenty feet from 
the plain, there is an oblong platform which 
projects about eighteen feet without, and as 
much within the walls. A flight of steps was 
apparently once attached to either extremity 
of the building, although now all traces of 
them have disappeared. This level space is 
roofed with flat stones of massive dimensions, 
resting on transverse walls. It is somewhat 



426 NAKAB EL HAJAR. [cH. 

singular that we could not trace any indica- 
tion of gates. The southern entrance has 
fallen much to decay, but the northern re- 
mains in almost a perfect state. The sketch 
on the map will illustrate its appearance and 
dimensions better than any verbal description. 
Within the entrance, at an elevation of 
ten feet from the platform, we found the in- 
scriptions. They are executed with ex- 
treme care, in two horizontal lines on the 
smooth face of the stones of the building, the 
letters being eight inches long. Attempts have 
been made, though without success, to obli- 
terate them. From the conspicuous situation 
which they occupy, there can be but little 
doubt, but that when deciphered, they will 
be found to contain the name of the founder 
of the building, as well as the date, and pur- 
port of its erection. The whole of the wall, 
the towers, and some of the edifices within, 
are built of the same material, viz., a com- 
pact greyish-coloured marble, streaked with 
thin dark veins and speckles, and hewn to the 
required shape with the utmost nicety. The 
dimensions of the slabs at the base of the 
walls and towers were from five to six and 



B AL HA JAR. 



Wfemains <>r'<i Building 
fuppoj/cd io !«■ <i Temple 




Entrance on winch is the following Inscription 

HXIIfelMIAHY 



Sketeh 

of a route to the 

RUINS OF NAKAB AL HAJAR, 

on the Southern Coast of 

Arabia. 




/',//.//./,.,- /,.-//„■ Toiirnalcflhe RcvynLGtogniphiml Socirt\--bvJohn Mumn: LoniU>iiJB37. 






XXVI.] NAKAB EL HAJAK. 427 

seven feet in length, from two feet ten inches 
to three feet in height, and from three to four 
in breadth. These decrease in size with the 
same regularity to the summit, where their 
breadth is not more than half that of those 
below, where the thickness of the wall, 
though I did not measure it, cannot be less 
than ten feet, and, as far as I could judge, 
about four at the summit. Notwithstanding 
the irregularity of its foundation, the stones 
are invariably placed in the same horizontal 
lines, carefully cemented with mortar, which 
has acquired a hardness almost equal to that 
of the stone. Such parts of the wall as re- 
main standing, are admirably knitted toge- 
ther; others which, by the crumbling away 
of their bases, incline towards their fall, still 
adhere in their tottering state without frac- 
ture ; and those patches which have fallen, 
are scattered around in huge undissevered 
masses. There are no openings in these 
walls, no turrets at the upper part, — the 
whole wears the same stable, uniform, and 
solid appearance. In order to prevent the 
mountain torrent, which leaves on the face 
of the surrounding country evident traces 



428 NAKAB EL HAJAR. [CH. 

of the rapidity of its course, from washing 
away the base of the hill, several buttresses 
of a circular form have been hewn from that 
part, and cased with a harder stone. The 
casing has partially disappeared, but the but- 
tresses still remain. 

Let us now visit the interior, where the 
most conspicuous object is an oblong square 
building, the walls of which face the cardinal 
points. Its largest size, fronting the north 
and south, measures twenty-seven yards. 
The shorter, facing the eastward, seventeen 
yards. The walls are fronted with a kind of 
free-stone, each slab being cut of the same 
size, and the whole so beautifully put toge- 
ther, that I endeavoured in vain to insert the 
blade of a small penknife between them. 
The outer unpolished surface is covered with 
small chisel marks, which the Bedowins have 
mistaken for writing. From the extreme 
care displayed in the construction of this 
building, I have no doubt that it is a temple, 
and my disappointment at finding the in- 
terior filled up with the ruins of the fallen 
roof was very great. Had it remained en- 
tire, we might have obtained some clue to 



XXVI. J NAKAB EL HAJAR. 4*2f) 

guide us in our researches respecting the 
form of religion professed by the earlier 
Arabs. Above and beyond this building 
there are several other edifices, with nothing 
peculiar in their form or appearance. Nearly 
midway between the two gates, there is a 
circular well ten feet in diameter, and 
sixty in depth. The sides are lined with 
unhewn stones, and either to protect it from 
the sun's rays, or to serve some process of 
drawing the water, a wall of a cylindrical 
form, fifteen feet in height, has been carried 
round it. 

On the southern mound we were not able 
to make any discoveries, as the whole pre- 
sents an undistinguishable mass of ruins. 
Within the southern entrance, on the same 
level with the platform, a gallery four feet 
in breadth, protected on the inner side by 
a strong parapet, and on the outer by the 
principal wall, extends for a distance of 
about fifty yards. I am unable to ascertain 
what purpose this could have served. In no 
portion of the ruins have we succeeded in 
tracing any remains of arches or columns, nor 
could we discover on their surface any of 



430 NAKAB EL HAJAR. [CH. 

those fragments of pottery, coloured glass, or 
metals, which are always found in old Egyp- 
tian towns, and which I also saw on those 
we discovered upon the north-west coast of 
Arabia. Except the attempts to deface the 
inscriptions I have before noticed, there is no 
other appearance of the building having suf- 
fered from any ravages besides those of time ; 
and owing to the dryness of the climate, as 
well as the hardness of the material, every 
stone, even to the marking of the chisel, re- 
mains as perfect as the day it was hewn. 
We were naturally anxious to ascertain if the 
Arabs had preserved any tradition concerning 
their buildings, but they refer them, in com- 
mon with the others we have fallen in with, 
to their Pagan ancestors. " Do you believe," 
said one of the Bedowins to me, upon my 
telling him that his ancestors were then ca- 
pable of greater works than themselves, 
" that these stones were raised by the unas- 
sisted hands of the Kafirs ? No ! no ! they 
had devils, legions of devils, (God preserve 
us from them!) to aid them." A superstition 
generally credited by others. 

The guides followed us during our stroll 



XXVI.] NAKAB EL HAJAR. 431 

over the ruins, in expectation of sharing in 
the golden hoards, which they would not but 
remain convinced we had come to discover. 
When, as they supposed, they found us un- 
successful in the search, they consoled them- 
selves with the reflection that we had not 
been able to draw them from the spirits, 
who, according to their belief, kept continual 
watch. 

The ruins of Nakab el Hajar, considered 
by themselves, present nothing more than a 
mass of ruins surrounded by a wall. But 
the magnitude of the stones used in its con- 
struction, and the perfect knowledge of the 
builder's art, exhibited in the style and mode 
of placing them together, with its towers, and 
great extent, would give it importance in any 
other part of the world. Here in Arabia, 
where, as far as is known, architectural re- 
mains are of rare occurrence, its appearance 
excites the liveliest interest. That it owes its 
origin to a very remote antiquity (how remote 
it is to be hoped the inscription will deter- 
mine,) is evident by its appearance alone, 
which bears a strong resemblance to similar 
edifices which have been found amidst Egyp- 



432 NAKAB EL HAJAR [CH< 

tian ruins. We have (as in them) the same 
inclination in the walls, the same form of 
entrance, and the same flat roof of stones. 
Its situation, and the mode in which the in- 
terior is laid out, seem to indicate that it 
served both as a magazine and a fort. I 
think, therefore, we may with safety adopt 
the conclusion that Nakab el Hajar, and the 
other castle which we have discovered, were 
erected during a period when the trade from 
India flowed through Arabia towards Egypt, 
and from thence to Europe. Thus Arabia 
Felix, comprehending Yemen, Saba, and Ha- 
dramaut, under the splendid dominion of the 
Sabsean or Homerite* dynasty, seems to have 
merited the appellation of which she boasted. 
The history of these provinces is involved 
in much obscurity, but Agatharchides, before 
the Christian era, bears testimony, in glowing 
colours, to the wealth and luxury of the Sa- 
bseans, and his account is heightened rather 
than moderated by succeeding writers. This 
people, before Marbe | became the capital of 

* The ancient people called Himyari by the modern Arabs 
were probably called Horaeiri by their ancestors, as their territory 
corresponds with that of the Homeritse of Ptolemy. — Geogr. vi. 6. 

t The Mariaba of the Greeks.— Strabo, xvi., p. 778. 



XXVI.] NAKAB EL HAJAR. 433 

their kingdom, possessed dominion along the 
whole of the southern frontier of Arabia. We 
are expressly informed that they planted 
colonies in situations eligible for trade, and 
fortified their establishments. 

The commerce was not confined to any 
particular channel ; on the contrary, we learn 
from an early period, of the existence of seve- 
ral flourishing cities, at or near the sea-shore, 
which must have shared in it. We know 
nothing of the interior of this remarkable 
country, but there is every reason to believe, 
as is most certainly the case with Nakab el 
Hajar, that these castles will not only point 
out the tracks which the caravans formerly 
pursued, but also indicate the natural passes 
into central Arabia. 

The inscription which it has been my good 
fortune to discover will create considerable 
interest among the learned. 

Burckhardt, while regretting the absence of 
any information connected with the origin of 
the civil institutions of the Bedowins, re- 
marks, " that perhaps the discovery of an- 
cient monuments and inscriptions in Nejd 
and Yemen might lead to a disclosure of new 

vol. i. 2 F 



434 NAKAB EL HAJAR. [CHi 

historical facts connected with this subject." 
At the period of the promulgation of the 
Koran, two alphabets were used in Arabia, 
the Kufic, in which that work was written, 
expressive of the Korish dialect, and the Hi- 
mayaritic, adopted by the people of Yemen*. 
The latter is now lost to us, and I know not 
on what grounds certain philologists have 
conjectured that it bore " a strong affinity to 
the Ethiopic ;" but " when the Koran ap- 
peared in the Kufic character the inhabitants 
of Yemen were unable to read iff." It has 
frequently been a subject of regret that we 
were in possession of no inscriptions from 
the country by which these points might be 
determined. Niehbur's attention was par- 
ticularly directed to it, although he was un- 
able during his stay to obtain any : one was 
shown him at Mokha, which was copied some 
distance from the coast, but sickness had so 
reduced him, that he observes he was then 
more occupied with thoughts respecting his 
latter end, than any desire to copy unknown 
inscriptions; but conjectures, from recollec- 
tion only, it might have been the Perse- 

* Conder's invaluable Modern Traveller. "Arabia." Page 41. 
f Ibid., p. 42. 



XXVI.] NAKAB EL HAJAR. 435 

politan, or arrow-headed character ; but no 
resemblance can be traced between this and 
an inscription since found by Seetzin*, on his 
road to Sana, nor those which I have given. 
Owing to the locality in which the latter were 
found, and for other reasons, I venture to 
suggest that both they, together with those 
we discovered at Hassan Ghorab, are the lost 
Himayaritic writing. Should this prove cor- 
rect, the resemblance to the Ethiopic is not 
conjectural, since a complete identity in 
many of the characters may be traced |. I 
am not sufficiently versed in oriental litera- 
ture to pursue this subject further,* and the 
above remarks are offered with some diffi- 
dence. Fac-similes of both, however, have 
been transmitted to the celebrated Gesennius, 
at Halle, and as they at present occupy his 
attention, we may venture to hope that the 
result will be a successful elucidation. 

Nakab el Hajar is situated north-west, and 
is distant forty-eight miles from the village of 
'Ain, which is marked on the chart in latitude 

* Mines d'Orient. p. 282. 

t It also bears some similitude to the rude undeciphered charac- 
ters on the Lat of Firoz Shah at Delhi.— As. Res. vii. pi, 7—10. 



4.36 NAKAB EL HAJAR. [CH. 

14° 2' north, and longitude 46° 30' east nearly. 
It stands in the centre of a most extensive 
valley, called by the natives Wadi Meifah, 
which, whether we regard its fertility, po- 
pulation, or extent, is the most interesting 
geographical feature we have yet discovered 
on the southern coast of Arabia. Taking its 
length from where it opens out on the sea- 
coast, to the town of 'Abban, it is four days' 
journey, or seventy-five miles. Beyond this 
point I could not exactly ascertain the extent 
of its prolongation ; various native authorities 
gave it from five to seven additional days 
throughout the whole of this space. It is 
thickly studded with villages, hamlets, and 
cultivated grounds. In a journey of fifteen 
miles, we counted more than thirty of the for- 
mer, besides a great number of single houses. 
The date-groves become more numerous as 
we approach towards the sea-shore, while in 
the same direction the number of cultivated 
patches decrease. Few of the villages con- 
tain more than from one to two hundred 
houses, which are of the same form, and con- 
structed of the same material (sun-baked 
bricks) as those on the sea-coast. I saw no 
huts, nor were there any stone houses, al- 



XXVI.] NAKAB EL HAJAR. 437 

though several of the villages had more than 
one mosque, and three or four Sheikhs' 
tombs. 

More attention appears to be paid within 
this district to agricultural pursuits, than in 
any other part of Arabia which I have hi- 
therto seen. The fields are ploughed in 
furrows, which for neatness and regularity 
would not shame an English peasant. They 
carefully free the soil from the few stones 
strewn over it, and water the whole plenti- 
fully morning and evening, from numerous 
wells. The water is drawn up by camels, 
(this is a most unusual circumstance, for 
they are rarely used as draught animals in 
any part of the East,) and distributed over 
the face of the country along high embank- 
ments. A considerable supply is also re- 
tained within these wherever the stream fills 
its bed. Trees and sometimes even houses are 
then washed away, but any damage it does is 
amply compensated by the mud deposited, 
which, although of a lighter colour and of a 
harder nature, is yet almost equally pro- 
ductive with that left by the Nile in Egypt. 
But beyond what I have noticed no other 
fruits or grain are grown. 



438 NAKAB EL HAJAR. [CH. 

Having now made all the necessary obser- 
vations on the ruins and the surrounding 
country, our Bedowins, as evening was ap- 
proaching, became clamorous for us to depart. 

About four p.m. we finished loading the 
camels, and travelled until near sunset, when 
we halted near one of the villages. 

Our reception there was very different from 
that which we experienced at the first village 
on our journey from the well. Though about 
fifty men crowded around us, their curiosity, 
though much heightened by all they saw, was 
restrained within the bounds of good taste. 
The questions they asked respecting our 
journey were proposed with a degree of deli- 
cacy which surprised and pleased me. Milk, 
water, and firewood were brought to us almost 
unsolicited, for which we had nothing to re- 
turn but our thanks. I much regretted on 
this occasion being unprovided with some 
trifling presents, which we might have left 
as a memorial of the Englishman's sojourn 
among them. What a different impression 
w r e might have formed of this people had we 
drawn our opinion from our guides or our first 
reception ! 

Saturday, May 2nd. Starting shortly after 



XXVI.] NAKAB EL HAJAR. 439 

midnight, we travelled until four, but losing 
our way, halted until daylight. At this 
time a heavy dew was falling, and Fahren- 
heit's thermometer stood at 58° ; it was con- 
sequently so chilly, that we were happy to 
wrap ourselves up in our boat-cloaks. 

At eight hours we again halted at the well 
to replenish our skins, previous to re- 
crossing the sandy hillocks, and then con- 
tinued on our journey. From nine a.m. this 
day, until 1*30, we endured a degree of 
heat I never felt equalled. Not a breath of 
wind was stirring, and the glare produced by 
the white sand felt almost intolerable. At 
two hours our guides were so much ex- 
hausted, that we were obliged to halt for an 
hour. At 530 we arrived at the date-groves, 
near to 'Ain Abu Mabuth, where there is a 
small village, and some fountains of pure 
water, about fifteen feet square and three 
deep. 

At seven hours we reached the beach, 
which we followed until we came opposite to 
the vessel. It was however too late for us to 
be solicitous about making a signal to those 
on board for a boat; and I was moreover 
desirous, from what we overheard between the 



440 NAKAB EL HAJAR. [CH. 

Bedowins, who were with us, to defer our de- 
parture until the morning. Any disturbance 
we might have with them had better happen 
then than during the night. We therefore 
took up our quarters amidst the sand-hills, 
where we could light a fire without fear of its 
being observed by those on board. 

It will readily be believed that if we felt 
fatigued it was not without reason. We 
had been seventy hours from our station at 
Ba-1-haff, during forty hours of which we had 
been mounted on our camels. The whole 
distance, one hundred and twenty miles, 
might have been accomplished, on a quick 
camel, in half that time, and it was our slow 
pace during the excessive heat of the weather 
at this season, which formed the most toil- 
some and tedious part of the journey. 

May 3rd. Being discovered at an early 
hour this morning from the ship, a boat was 
immediately despatched for us. Strength- 
ened now with her crew, we settled with the 
Bedowins without any additional demand, 
and in the course of a few minutes were on 
board the vessel, where we received the con- 
gratulations of all on our return. Consider- 
able apprehension had been entertained for 



XXVI.] NAKAB EL HAJAR. 441 

our safety, when it was discovered that Ha- 
med had not accompanied us. 

It was not indeed until afterwards that we 
ascertained the extreme risk we had encoun- 
tered on this journey; for the Diyabi Be- 
dowins, finding we had passed through their 
territory, lay in wait for us, under the im- 
pression we should return by the same route. 
But the ship fortunately took up a second 
station, about twenty miles to the westward 
of the former one, and on receiving intelli- 
gence of that we returned by another and 
more direct road to her. Some idea may be 
formed of the reception destined for us from 
the following incident : — A few days after- 
wards, one of our boats was lying at anchor 
close to the shore; a party of this tribe 
appeared, and coolly kneeling, took delibe- 
rate aim, and fired into her. The midship- 
man in charge very quickly returned it, but 
no blood was shed. 

The success which has attended this brief 
journey to the interior will, it is hoped, prove 
an inducement to others to follow up our re- 
searches. Had I been differently situated, 
I should have proceeded on to 'Abban, on the 
road to which there are at a village called 



442 NAKAB EL HAJAR. [CH. 

Eisan ruins of nearly equal magnitude with 
Nakab el Hajar. But independent of these 
ancient monuments, in themselves far more 
than enough to repay the adventure, the con- 
dition, character, and pursuits of the inhabit- 
ants, the productions, resources, and nature 
of the country, severally furnish subjects of 
peculiar interest, and would, there can be no 
doubt, amply repay the curiosity of the first 
European who should visit them. 

In order to proceed, I imagine nothing 
more would be necessary than for any indi- 
vidual to procure a letter from the British 
Government to the Sheikh of 'Abban. A 
guard could be sent to escort him there from 
the sea- coast, and he could from thence be 
forwarded to the next Sheikh by a similar ap- 
plication. 

By the assumption of a Mohammedan or 
even a medical character, and a sacrifice of 
every species of European comfort, he might, 
I have very little doubt, penetrate to the very 
heart of this remarkable country. 



143 



APPENDIX TO VOL. 1. 



Extracts from Letters received from Sayyid Ibn Kalfdn*, 
Secretary to the Imam of Maskat. 

My DEAR Sir, Maskat, 26th Dec, 1835. 

I am glad to hear of the attention and civility 
you have met with in the dominions of His Highness ; 
please God you may continue to do so, and succeed in 
your journey ! Your letter to His Highness I have 
presented this day ; and rest assured he is well pleased 
at hearing you are well satisfied with his subjects. 

There is a Chief at Maskat of the tribe of Majara, 
who agrees for five hundred dollars to conduct you 
from Birehnah to Deray'yah, furnishing you all the 
way with camels, and a guard of seventy or eighty 
men. I am now waiting for your answer. There is no 
other way of crossing the Desert than in this manner 
with a caravan. You had better, as you suggest, 
take a Cashmere shawl for Fasilf . I will purchase 
and send you one. 

I am, Sir, 

Your obedient Servant, 

Sayyid Ibn Kali an. 

* This gentleman, an Arab, was educated in Calcutta, and 1 have 
given a literal transcript of his English letters, 
f The Imam of the Wahhabis. 



444 APPENDIX. 

My dear Sir, Maskat, February 9th. 

With much pleasure I acknowledge the receipt 
of your most esteemed letter, which reached me on the 
4th ; happy I am to find you are at Sib, and recovering 
your health. Sir, the greatest benefit is to gain 
strength, and this I hear you are gaining; for this, in 
my daily prayers to Almighty God, I thank him. I 
explained to His Highness your fever at Neswah : he 
said " it could not be avoided; that what Almighty 
God orders must take place." I enclose you a letter 
from him to the Governor of Sib, which you can read, 
as it is unsealed. He was quite pleased and happy to 
hear of your safe arrival at that place. 

Yours faithfully, 

Sayyid Ibn Kalfan. 



Maskat, 17th February, 1836. 
I have received your letter this day at 8h.3' a.m. 
I have mentioned the route you intend to pursue, to 
His Highness ; his reply is as follows : " That the 
road from Suweik to Obri is not safe for you ; nor to 
Dharra." Do not run the risk ; His Highness deems 
it not safe. The reason is, the Wahhabi tribe arrived 
from Deray'yah; beyond Sohar, several places have 
been attacked and burnt ; all the people are at present 
in confusion, particularly in those places connected 
with Obri. They plunder and kill each other, and 
say it is the Wahhabis. 

If you are therefore coming to Maskat, you had 
better get on board some bagala passing, as the 

weather is very hot to come by land. 

***** 



APPENDIX. 445 

Maskat, Sunday, February 22nd, 1836. 
I received your letter last night, and perfectly 
understand the contents. Your determination to pro- 
ceed to Obri, I have told His Highness, and he has 
therefore given an order this day, that one of his 
officers is to conduct you to Obri : viz., by this route 
he will first call at the town of Suweik, to the country 
called Gaize'in, of the tribe of Hawasanah ; the said 
tribe will conduct you to the country of the Beni 
Kalb£n, who will take you to Obri, the Yacknali tribe ; 
there you must get them to conduct you to Bireimah. 

The Sheikh at Bireimah, Sayyid Ibn Mutluk, will 
conduct you to Deray'yah. His Highness, to prevent 
accidents, will write to Bireimah by your guide, and to 
the Imam at Deray'yah, that any orders from you for 
money drawn on him will be accepted and paid. 

The Imam has given directions for camels to be 
furnished to convey you as far as Suweik, that is, the 
last dominions of His Highness. 

Yours faithfully, 

Sayyid Ibn Kalfan. 



My dear Sir, Maskat, April 6th, 1836. 

I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, 
dated Sib, April 5th. 

Captain Hennell returned to Maskat in the Coote, 
and by her I have received several letters for you, 
which I send with this, without delay. 

I never heard of the messengers the Imam de- 
spatched for you to Obri ; and I believe they were both 
murdered by the Wahhabis. 

Yours faithfully, 

Sayyid Ibn Kalfan. 



446 



APPENDIX. 



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END OF VOL. I 



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